Bestselling author and founder of Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, has been writing about and studying regions in the world called Blue Zones. Aptly named because they have the highest number of centenarians in the world, Buettner has been collecting time-tested recipes of foods that promote longer life.
In a recent article in National Geographic (January 2020), Buettner revisits four key locations that he visited over fourteen years ago; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan, and Loma Linda, California. The diets in these four regions are based primarily on plants and grains, tubers, and nuts. Eating minimally processed foods appears to have a great impact on the overall health of the people living in these regions, for example, “On Okinawa, as compared to the United States, residents are three times as likely to reach 100, women suffer about half the rate of breast cancer, both sexes are afflicted by a third to a quarter the rate of heart disease, and elderly people die from Alzheimer’s dementia a tenth to a twelfth the rate.”
Senior Nutrition at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living, improving the health of our residents, their memory and slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia, are an integral part of what we do in our communities. Our meals are filled with variety including new and seasonally inspired choices every day. We provide a combination of locally sourced food with a global infusion and many dishes have ingredients that help brain health and memory. While we like to offer residents meals that they are familiar with we also like to keep their taste buds active by offering newer variations and some vegetable-based options.
At Maplewood at Southport, Culinary Service Director, Catie Eykelhoff, incorporates Blue Zone diets into her lunch service. She told us, “We offer a different Chef’s Power Bowl each day. Items and options vary with season and availability. Some of the most popular are our Grain Bowls which tend to focus on hearty grains, vegetables and great flavor combinations that residents may not have had before. More than often they are plant-based, protein-packed and include a variety of flavors and textures which fall into a Blue Zone Diet. “
To recreate these recipes at home is simple. We recommend making some of the core ingredients ahead of time such as the barley, brown rice and quinoa then each day you can layer in different combinations to suit your taste. If you’d like to recreate the bowls Chef Catie demonstrated for us, the recipes are below.
Chef’s Power Bowls
Tuscan Inspired Power Bowl: Barley, Kale, Broccolini, Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans, Toasted Pine Nuts, Garlic, Basil, Balsamic Reduction.
• 1 cup Barley (cooked)
• 1 cup Kale (shredded)
• 4 Broccolini (blanched
• 10 Grape Tomatoes (cut in half)
• 1/3 cup Cannellini Beans (cooked or canned)
• ¼ cup Toasted Pine Nuts
• 1 Tablespoon Roasted Garlic
• Basil Leaves for garnish
• Balsamic Reduction drizzle
Asian Inspired Power Bowl: Brown Rice, Avocado, Sautéed Mushrooms, Shredded Cabbage, Bean Sprouts, Roasted Peanuts, Seasoned Tofu, Sriracha-Soy Glaze.
• 1 cup Brown Rice (cooked)
• ½ Avocado (sliced)
• ¼ cup Mushrooms (sautéed)
• ¼ cup Green Beans (blanched)
• 1 Tablespoon Almonds (sliced)
• 3 ounces Seasoned Tofu (pan-seared)
• Sriracha-Soy Glaze
Mediterranean Inspired Power Bowl: Quinoa, Green Chickpeas, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Olives, Sunflower Seeds, Lemon-Tahini Drizzle.
• 1 cup Quinoa (cooked)
• ¼ cup Green Chickpeas)
• 1 Roasted Sweet Potato (sliced or diced)
• ½ cup baby Spinach
• ¼ cup Olives
• 1 Tablespoon Sunflower Seeds
• Lemon-Tahini Drizzle
• Note: Starting at the top, layer or section all ingredients into a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing.
If you’ve been a big meat eater your whole life, it will take time to make changes. Small steps at a time make a difference. Consider incorporating new foods that are known for boosting your brain and memory. Perhaps pick one day a week to go meat-free? Or try something new each week like adding turmeric into a soup or chicken dish? Even dark chocolate is reported to help boost your mood and your memory. Pick up a copy of The Blue Zones Kitchen (100 Recipes to Live to 100) for some inspiration on senior nutrition.
Promoting Senior Nutrition at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living we know how important eating well is, especially for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. That’s why we provide our residents with delicious meals sourced from local farms and businesses. If you are interested in learning more about our offerings or to schedule a tour and sample our healthy options, please feel free to contact us.