It's no wonder we look to people in the Blue Zones for clues on how to live longer and age gracefully: People residing in these regions have the longest life expectancy rates in the world.
While there's no simple or singular secret to longevity, one habit many folks residing in Blue Zones have in common is starting the day with a balanced breakfast, according to the Blue Zones website.
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So, what does a Blue Zone brekkie look like? "Plant-based foods take up 90 to 100 percent of the real estate on the plates in Blue Zone households," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It — Taking You from Label to Table.
If you want to optimize your health as you age, take a cue from the centenarians and try these Blue Zones-inspired breakfast recipes. They all feature ingredients popular in these areas of the world and serve up nutrients that support healthy aging.
1. Tropical Black Bean, Cheese and Papaya Burrito
People living in the Blue Zones eat plenty of legumes (like beans and peas), and for good reason. They provide a healthy dose of muscle-supporting protein, energy-sustaining complex carbs and heart- and gut-healthy fiber.
Papaya and black beans, which are the main ingredients in this breakfast recipe, are particularly popular in Nicoya, Costa Rica (one of the Blue Zones).
This delicious plant-based breakfast burrito is brimming with longevity-supporting benefits.
Get the Tropical Black Bean, Cheese and Papaya Burrito recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Sunshine Smoothie
You won't find many dairy products on a Blue Zones diet plan, but fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir — the main ingredient in this breakfast smoothie — do appear to be important.
Because kefir is a fermented food, it's rich in probiotics — aka the good bacteria that help keep your gut healthy.
What's more, kefir has also been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal, anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effects, according to a November 2017 review in Medical Oncology.
This breakfast smoothie is like a breath of sunshine. Along with tangy kefir and refreshing mango, it also contains almonds, the nut highest in calcium, which is crucial for bone health, especially as we age, Taub-Dix says.
Get the Sunshine Smoothie recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast
You may not automatically gravitate toward eating fish for breakfast, but don't knock it until you try it.
In Ikaria, Greece (another Blue Zone), fish like salmon are a revered protein source thanks to their heart-healthy omega-3s. Avocados are a popular menu item there, too — they offer omega-3s and gut-supporting fiber.
"We should be eating seafood at least two times a week, but many people in the U.S. don't know how to prepare it," Taub-Dix says. This simple recipe — which features smoked salmon you can purchase pre-made — makes it easy.
Sneaking in a serving of salmon at breakfast is a great way to reach your weekly fish quota and keep your heart healthy.
Get the Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Carrot Cake Oatmeal
Carrot cake for breakfast — yes, please.
Oats, especially steel cut oats, are a popular breakfast ingredient among centenarians living in Loma Linda, California. This hearty whole grain is full of heart-healthy fiber and plant-based protein.
This outstanding oatmeal has all your favorite spiced carrot cake flavors — cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom — minus the sugar. But where it really shines is the addition of plant-based proteins and healthy fats in the form of chia seeds and walnuts.
Healthy fats like these have been shown to keep blood sugar levels stable and promote heart health, Taub-Dix says.
Get the Carrot Cake Oatmeal recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Veggie Tofu Scramble
People living in Okinawa, Japan (another Blue Zone) eat a lot of tofu. Tofu is loaded with plant-based protein, essential amino acids and many vitamins and minerals, like calcium, manganese, iron and vitamin A, according to the American Heart Association.
This veggie scramble scraps the eggs for tofu, which serves as the perfect blank canvas to build a healthy breakfast.
"The good and bad news about tofu is that it has no flavor," Taub-Dix says. "But all that means is you need to combine it with flavorful foods to bring out the best in the dish," she adds.
In this case, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil offers oodles of taste. You can also shake on some spices (easy on the salt) and a splash of low-sodium soy sauce for an extra flavor boost, Taub-Dix says.
Get the Veggie Tofu Scramble recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Quinoa Porridge
Quinoa is popular among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. This seed is full of heart-healthy fiber, plant-based protein and many vitamins and minerals your body needs.
While quinoa is a dinner staple, it also makes for a great breakfast food, too. This superb seed (yes, quinoa is technically a seed) is one of the best plant-based sources of all nine essential amino acids.
And with 17 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber, this plant-powered porridge will certainly stick to your ribs.
Get the Quinoa Porridge recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Savory Tuscan Oatmeal
As mentioned, oats are a big part of the diets of centenarians in Loma Linda, California. But if you're only eating your oatmeal with sweet flavors, you're overlooking a whole savory side to oats that's equally scrumptious.
This hearty breakfast bowl couples cannellini beans (another popular Blue Zones food) with fresh rosemary and fire-roasted diced tomatoes for a palate-pleasing experience.
Not to mention oatmeal is oh so good for you. "Oats are rich in soluble fiber that might help to reduce cholesterol levels and promote heart health," Taub-Dix says.
Get the Savory Tuscan Oatmeal recipe and nutrition info here.
8. Crunchy Spiced Chickpea Toast
Plant ingredients like chickpeas, avocados, fresh mint and lemon zest make this a great Blue Zones-inspired breakfast recipe. Not only that, you'll use fermented sourdough bread as the base, which is popular in Ikaria, Greece.
Roasted chickpeas contribute fiber and plant protein, while warm spices like cayenne, cinnamon and ginger add antioxidants to help fight against disease-causing free radicals, according to the University of Maryland Medical System.
Get the Crunchy Spiced Chickpea Toast recipe and nutrition info here.