Monday, February 27, 2012

7 Secrets from the World's Healthiest Women

Here are 7 great practices (or secrets) learned from the world's healthiest women, according to researchers Dan Buettner and Daphne Miller. Dan Buettner and a team of longevity researchers and are described in his book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest. They're areas in Italy, Japan, Greece, California, and Costa Rica where the people have traditionally stayed healthy and active to age 100 or older. 
Similarly, Cold Spots, as identified by integrative medicine physician Daphne Miller, M.D., author ofThe Jungle Effect, are five areas in Mexico, Iceland, Japan, Greece, and Cameroon with low rates of "Western" ailments like heart disease, depression, and certain cancers. 

So try these healthful Blue Zone-and Cold Spot-inspired ideas:
  • Take 20% off. "In every Blue Zone, they eat less than we do, by at least 20%," Buettner says. One trick for slashing portions: "Instead of putting big platters of food at the center of the table, fill each plate at the counter," Buettner says.
  • Pile on the plants. Not only are plant-based diets rich in antioxidants and other good-for-you nutrients, they're also better for your waistline. "A plate of food in Okinawa has one-fifth the calorie density of a typical American meal," Buettner says. "You can chow down for a fraction of the calories." Buettner suggests thinking of meat as a condiment rather than the main event, and subbing in more beans, legumes, and nuts.
  • Learn to love the foods that love you back. A diet of berries and elk or tofu and sea vegetables might seem utterly foreign-but taste buds can be retrained. "Americans love fat, salt, and sugar because that's what 9 of 10 we're used to," Katz says. "But studies show that if you eat more wholesome foods, you can learn to prefer them." An easy way to start: Search for stealth sugar, which Katz says is found in many packaged foods. "Once you get rid of that hidden sugar, you'll start to prefer less-sweet foods," he notes.
  • Sit down-and slow down. It might be too much to cook every meal. But we can sit at a table to eat our takeout instead of scarfing it down in the car. Savor each bite as the French do; stretch your meals out for 20 whole minutes. You'll end up eating less and enjoying more.
  • Get up. "The longest-living people don't think of exercise as a chore," Buettner says. Instead, little bits of movement are a constant part of their everyday lives. Make like a French woman and take a short walk after dinner. Shovel your own snow instead of paying the kid next door; make extra trips carrying laundry up and down the stairs.
  • Get out. Every Blue Zone is known for its strong social and family bonds. Besides spending quality time at home with family, surround yourself with healthy-living friends-good health habits are contagious, research shows. Be sure to get involved in your community, too, whether it's at church, a gardening group, or a volunteer organization. These connections can add years to your life, Buettner says.
  • Take it easy. Even the world's healthiest people get stressed out sometimes. What they all have, Buettner says, are daily strategies to shed stress. Meditate, go for a run, make a dinner date with your best friend-and don't worry about your inability to be a French woman or a Greek farmer.
It's OK to enjoy the occasional cheeseburger. What matters is a cumulative lifestyle pattern of enjoying healthful food, staying connected to others, and keeping yourself moving. That's how I plan to live to be 100 in the Brooklyn Blue Zone.


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