Dan Buettner has spent his career studying the “Blue Zones” - the five places in the world where people live the longest. He’s looked at everything from their lifestyles and relationships to their diets to understand what makes them healthy and adds to their longevity. And based on his research, he says most Americans need to rethink what they’re eating for breakfast.
Typical American breakfast foods, like cereal and pastries, are loaded with added sugar, but the folks in the Blue Zones take a different approach. They tend to think of breakfast as the most important and biggest meal of the day and theirs are full of nutrients, not sugar. Here’s what five breakfast foods from the Blue Zones include and what makes them so healthy:
- Whole grain corn flakes - Loma Linda, California is a Blue Zone that’s home to a high concentration of Seventh-day Adventists and members of that church don’t eat many animal products, or smoke or drink alcohol. They eat whole grain cereals, like corn flakes, and nutritionist Stacey Simon notes that cereals like that, made without added sugar, are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, making them a good morning meal.
- Miso soup with rice - Those in the Blue Zone of Okinawa, Japan, usually eat miso soup with root vegetables, rice and tofu for breakfast, according to Buettner. Simon gives it a thumbs up for being full of vitamins, minerals and protein, while being low in saturated fat.
- Goat’s yogurt with nuts and honey - In the Blue Zone of Ikaria, Greece, this is a common breakfast, along with bread, seasonal fruit and herbal tea. Goat’s milk is higher in protein than cow’s milk, nuts are a good source of protein and healthy fats and teas like those enjoyed in Ikaria can help lower inflammation, Simon says.
- Minestrone soup - This surprising breakfast food is popular in Sardinia, Italy, where Blue Zoners like to start their day with this veggie and bean soup, along with sheep’s milk cheese, sourdough bread and black coffee. Buettner says the high fiber content helps feed gut bacteria, which is great for digestion and the immune system. Plus, sourdough bread doesn’t spike blood sugar like white bread commonly eaten in the U.S.
- Black beans, corn tortillas and avocado - Those in the Blue Zone of Costa Rica commonly eat this breakfast, which is high in fiber, protein, folate, potassium, and antioxidants, as well as healthy fats, thanks to the avocado.