We all know one of the best ways to feel good in ourselves is to be healthy. What we put into our bodies has a huge impact on our mood, energy and body confidence. As we come up to the festive period, food can be a minefield for your health.
Traditional diets are often about restriction and, as a result, can feel boring. But we also know the key to maintaining a healthy body and figure is long-term changes to what you eat. Forget about Atkins, the 5:2 diet and paleo – one of the most on-trend eating lifestyles at the moment is the Blue Zone diet. And it’s backed by science, too.
What is blue zoning?
Blue Zones are areas of the world which have the healthiest and longest-living people. Their environment, lifestyles and diets are all optimised to give them the highest life expectancies in the world. People in Blue Zones have lower levels of chronic disease, obesity and BMIs.
The five original Blue Zones are:
- Okinawa (Japan)
- Ikaria (Greece)
- Sardinia (Italy)
- Nicoya (Costa Rica)
- Loma Linda (California)
Physical activity and healthy eating are embedded in the culture of Blue Zones. The Mediterranean diet is well-established as one of the healthiest in the world. It's rich in fish, vegetables, nuts and healthy fats like olive oil. So it’s no surprise to see Greek and Italian islands in the list of Blue Zones. The Blue Zone eating method as a whole is very similar to the traditional Mediterranean diet.
Blue Zone cultures place a lot of importance on family values. That's why Christmas is a fantastic opportunity to practice a Blue Zone way of life. A Blue Zone blog said celebrating Christmas with family can make people happier. And we know being happy equals less stress and fewer visible signs of ageing.
Here's how you can have a happy, healthy Blue Zone Christmas.
Take advantage of plant-based Christmas delicacies
While people who live in Blue Zones aren't exclusively vegan or vegetarian, they eat a majority plant-based diet. It's estimated that over 90% of people's diets in Blue Zones are plant-based. Vegans and followers of plant-based diets are the most likely to be a healthy body weight. So, to feel your best in your bandeau bikini on your winter holiday, we recommend adopting a plant-based diet. In doing so, you'll also naturally achieve another key tenet of a Blue Zone diet, which is to eat whole, unprocessed foods.
The good news is that thanks to a rise in veganism, plant-based options are now flavourful and exciting. Many of us associate Christmas dinner with turkey, but vegan and vegetarian alternatives are now leading the way.
Vegan nut roasts are a delicious and healthy alternative to the meaty centrepiece of Christmas dinner. The entire roast is made from a combination of vegetables, pearl barley and nuts, with optional vegan cheese. It's not only a delicious festive indulgence but also very healthy. Hello, guilt-free Christmas dinner.
If you've got a sweet tooth, vegan Christmas pudding made with most of the traditional ingredients will satisfy that craving. In some recipes, you can substitute eggs for low calorie, protein-rich chia seeds.
Reduce your dairy intake
While dairy products contain a lot of important vitamins and minerals, they can also cause issues. It's well-established that milk and similar products can cause acne. And in a phenomenon aptly named 'dairy face', animal products can also cause:
- Swollen eyelids
- Under-eye bags
- Dark circles
- White bumps on the face
We can all agree dairy face isn't a great look. It's good news, then, that dairy substitutes are just as indulgent as the real thing. Eggnog is a Christmas staple for many but, you've guessed it, there's a dairy-free alternative. Using coconut cream and milk instead of cow's milk and double cream, you can make a drink that's luxurious without the negative skin effects.
If your face doesn't get spotty and sallow from dairy, you can still substitute cow's milk with goat's milk. The latter is a staple in the Sardinia and Ikaria Blue Zones. It's considered easier to digest and is often consumed as yoghurt, cheese or sour milk.
Cut down on sugar
We know, one of the biggest indulgences at Christmas is a Dairy Milk Tray or some Ferrero Rochers. But, like dairy, this can have an adverse effect on your skin and body. We don't need to tell you that chocolate isn't a healthy choice for the body-conscious. But sugary treats can give you, you've guessed it, 'sugar face’. And the effects are longer-lasting. Sugar breaks down collagen, the protein that keeps your visage looking youthful.
One of the best ways you can snack like a blue-zoner is by eating nuts, but we know they're not exciting on their own. You can replace your staple Christmas luxury, Ferrero Rochers, with a healthy protein ball version packed with healthy nuts that’s just as delicious.
Get some winter sun
You've likely noticed that the five Blue Zones are all in warmer climates. Research shows that short days and cold weather can have a negative impact on our health, so it's the perfect excuse for a winter getaway. Cold weather can affect your mood, dry out your skin and even make you feel more tired.
Spending Christmas abroad is becoming more popular in the UK. But even if you spend your Christmas day at home, you can still reap the benefits of a holiday in the festive period. Jetting off to a sunnier climate in the winter months has proven benefits. 29% of people in the UK are deficient of vitamin D in the winter. This essential vitamin helps the body absorb calcium. When deficient, people can experience low energy levels, depression, headaches and joint pain. If you're an active, healthy young woman, the last thing you need is joint pain.
The NHS recommends taking a vitamin D supplement in the winter months, but there's no substitute for the real thing. Jetting off to a sunny destination not only gives you an opportunity to relax, it'll improve your health and happiness. You can even visit one of the Blue Zones to immerse yourself in the Blue Zone life and diet first-hand!