It's no wonder we look to people in the Blue Zones — regions in the world with the longest life expectancy rates — for clues on how to live longer and age gracefully. While there's no simple or singular secret to longevity, one habit that all Blue Zone folks have in common is starting the day with a big, balanced breakfast.
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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 in old age, take a cue from the octogenarians in these localities with the lengthiest lifespans and try these 10 Blue Zones breakfast recipes. Each serves up nutrients that support healthy aging.
1. Tropical Black Bean, Cheese and Papaya Burrito
Between baby spinach, black beans and papaya, this breakfast burrito is brimming with longevity-supporting foods.
"Beans are the most underrated superfood in the supermarket," Taub-Dix says. Not only do beans boast a boatload of protein, but they also contain filling fiber, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent heart disease, she says.
Get the Tropical Black Bean, Cheese and Papaya Burrito recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Sunshine Smoothie
This morning mango smoothie is like a breath of sunshine. The key ingredient is kefir, the tangy yogurt drink. 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.
And if this smoothie wasn't amazing enough, 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
Fish for breakfast? Don't knock it until you try it.
"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 that you can purchase pre-made in the store — 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 (thanks to its omega-3s).
Get the Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Carrot Cake Oatmeal
Carrot cake for breakfast... Yes, please. This outstanding oatmeal has all your favorite spicy carrot cake flavors — cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom — minus all 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. Good-for-you 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
This veggie scramble scraps the eggs for tofu to create a tasty vegan omelet. Tofu touts powerful plant protein and 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 that 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. Smoothie Bowl
Calling all chocolate ice cream lovers: This satiating smoothie bowl — which clocks in at 28 grams of protein per serving — is for you. Every chocolatey scoopful starts with a swirl of sweet banana and ends with a satisfying crunch of granola. And you'll get an ample amount of antioxidants from the medley of mixed berries, including strawberries, which are full of fiber and vitamin C, Taub-Dix says.
Get the Smoothie Bowl recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Quinoa Porridge
While quinoa may don your dinner plate, it also makes a mean breakfast food too. This superb seed (yes, quinoa is technically a seed) is special as it's one of the few plant-based foods considered a complete protein (meaning it has 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.
8. Savory Tuscan Oatmeal
If you're only eating your oatmeal with sweet flavors, you're overlooking a whole other savory side to oats that's equally as scrumptious. This hearty breakfast bowl couples cannellini beans with fresh rosemary and fire-roasted diced tomatoes for a palate-pleasing experience.
Not to mention oatmeal is oh so good for you. "Oats contain 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.
9. Crunchy Spiced Chickpea Toast
When you're looking for a way to level up your average avocado toast, lob on legumes. Roasted chickpeas contribute a font of fiber and a punch of plant protein while warm spices like cayenne, cinnamon and ginger add antioxidants to help fight against free radicals.
The bonus: All this good stuff (including crumbled feta) goes on top of sourdough bread, a fermented, gut-friendly food.
Get the Crunchy Spiced Chickpea Toast recipe and nutrition info here.
10. Oatmeal Smoothie
Can't decide between oatmeal and a smoothie for breakfast? Have both. Blending the best of both worlds, this salivating apple-pear smoothie with creamy hemp milk is made for busy mornings. Simply combine a handful of ingredients in a blender and mix — it's that easy.
Like quinoa, hemp is a complete protein. So, rest assured you're also getting all your essential amino acids with every sip of this smoothie.
Get the Oatmeal Smoothie recipe and nutrition info here.