Lessons in Longevity and Luxurious “Blue Zone” Foods at GreenSpace Event

Lessons in Longevity and Luxurious “Blue Zone” Foods at GreenSpace Event

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 3, 2019)

Ferndale, MI – There are places in the world less touched by maladies like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – where it’s not unusual for residents to live to 90, or 100 and beyond.

These places are an inspiration for scientists, researchers, and healthcare professionals like cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn who focuses his career on lifestyle as a means of disease prevention.  He’s a nationally-recognized speaker and author, as well as the owner of GreenSpace Café in Ferndale and GreenSpace to Go in Royal Oak.

On a crisp fall Sunday evening, Dr. Kahn hosted a Blue Zone Dinner lecture at his plant-based Ferndale restaurant to share what research says are the keys to a long and healthy life.

In places like Nicoya Costa Rica, Icaria Greece, Sardinia Italy, Okinawa Japan, Loma Linda California and Icaria Greece there are common traits that anyone can learn from.  These “Blue Zones” were identified by National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner who went on to write books and create a brand around his observations.  While Dr. Kahn is not affiliated with the Blue Zone organization, the efforts of the group to spread good health practices have been a source of inspiration in his work.

There are five commonalities that Dr. Kahn spoke about while guests savored a three course meal complete with Stella and Mosca Cannonau Di Sardenga Riserva 2016 wine from Sardinia.

1 – Physical Activity.  The most obvious take away is the benefit of physical activity.  “Move more,” Dr. Kahn said.  While some may chose to run 26 mile long marathons, he said, the average person can benefit from simply adding more movement to their lives.  “Walk, run, dance, get up and move around.”  Even making sure to walk each day can help. He explained that as people begin to move, they feel better and start to do more.

2 – Ikigai.  Ikigai is a Japaneese word meaning to have purpose in life.  In Okinawa Japan this concept is part of day to day life.  “Have something that fires you up,” Dr. Kahn said.

“We all hear stories of Joe or Sally, they retire and they’re dead within one or two years.  You need something that gets you up in the morning, whether it’s work, or family or volunteering. Have something that matters to you.”

3 – Rest. Downtime is essential for longevity. Dr. Kahn said that rest is part of staying healthy and young.  “People have lost 45 minutes of sleep per night, and that’s epic,” he said.  Causes are stress, busy lives, trying to do too much, and the blue light of cell phones and other electronics.”  Downtime and sleep are the ways bodies recharge.

4 – Moderation – Dr. Kahn said everyone should “Eat until you’re 80% full. Take your time and chew.  Don’t eat until you want to fall over.” This is true no matter what foods one ingests, however it does go hand in hand with the final tip…

5 – Focus on Plants. The doctor calls this “the plant slant.”  While Dr. Kahn is a vegan and advocates for a plant-based diet, he does recognize that meat is part of the diet and culture even in the Blue Zones, but only in moderation.  “Cities with good health do include animals in their diet, but they’re very plant-heavy,” he said.

Attendees were given a delicious introduction to plant-based dining, with a three course meal prepared by Chef Bryan Nieradka, with dessert by Pastry Chef Trevor Smith.

The first course was a pineapple-cucumber salad with cilantro and lime juice. This was followed by acorn squash with quinoa, purple potatoes, red peppers, kale and tomato sauce.  For dessert there was plum rosemary sorbet, sweet poppadum, pomegranate molasses, and sugared rosemary.  Those who did not partake in the wine were treated to a fall harvest mocktail.

Rosemary, he explained, has been known since the time of Shakespeare to help with memory and mental prowess. Grapes, and wine, include resveratrol which is packed with antioxidants that may help prevent heart disease. Purple potatoes contain antioxidants as well as complex carbohydrates which make it a good source of fuel for bodies.

Dr. Kahn also mentioned foods from each region that people can start including in their diets.  In Japan there is a fondness for tofu which is a fantastic plant-based protein.  Bittr melon is another Japanese favorite that helps lower blood pressure. Garlic, turmeric, green tea, and mushrooms also add to the health of Japanese diets.

In Greece, boiled coffee helps keep people energized and young.  In Italy it’s the abundance of barley, tomatoes, fava beans, and sourdough bread that helps with good health.

Loma Linda, California makes the list because their large population of Seventh-day Adventists adheres to a plant-based diet without alcohol or caffeine.

Dr. Kahn talked about how Blue Zone concepts are becoming more popular in the United States, with cities being able to become Blue Zone certified if they commit to increasing community health.  Learn more about Blue Zones, including more tips and more information on certification at www.BlueZones.com

Greenspace is located at 215 W. 9 Mile in Ferndale. Find out more at http://greenspacecafe.com/.

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