5 Healthy Blue Zone Meals You Need To Try At Home In 2021
Have you wondered what Blue Zone residents eat? You may think that Blue Zone diets are usually hard to follow because of the geographical distinctions and varying traditional foods. Though this is a fair assumption, it isn’t entirely true. Blue Zones are spread out all over the globe, and because of that, Blue Zone diets are rather accessible and easy to prepare at home! Blue Zone Diets share common foods, such as vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits, whole grains, and plant-derived oils, so that anyone can try it anywhere at any time. These common foods have been shown to help Blue Zone residents lead a longer, healthier life with lower disease risk.
Here are 5 different meals from the different Blue Zones around the world.
Culurgiones - Sardinia, Italy
Culurgiones is a traditional Sardinian pasta dish of the mountainous Province of Ogliastra, located in eastern Sardinia. Culurgiones are usually served on special days and festive seasons, such as during the Day of the Dead and Carnival. Culurgiones can be directly translated into “little bundles” in Italian, and the appearance of Culurgiones is derived from the shape of wheat grain. Their unique appearance has been used as a talisman to safeguard the family from deprivation by appeasing the new crop to come.
Culurgiones have three different components: the dough, the filling, and the sauce. The dough of the Culurgiones is made from semolina flour, white flour, eggs, water, and salt. The filling is a combination of boiled potatoes, olive oil, pecorino cheese, garlic, mint, and nutmeg. Variations of the filling exist across different regions of Sardinia so you can find or make your variations to your likening (1). And lastly, the sauce is made from tomato puree, garlic clove, and extra virgin olive oil.
Soulfico - Ikaria, Greece
Soulfico is a traditional summer dish of Ikaria and can be described as the Ikarian “ratatouille”. Simply, Soulfico can be described as a vegetable stew that is slow-cooked and served as a side dish. The dish was normally made in the summer because of the availability of different vegetables around the season, but nowadays it can be found throughout the year. The origin of the term “Soulfico'' comes from the Ikarian dialect “Souafica,” which means “I left you some,” to indicate that this dish was so delicious that I left you some (3).
The Soulfico is the combination of eggplants, zucchinis, onions, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers that are smothered in olive oil. Unlike the French ratatouille, Soulfico includes potatoes and Ikarian herbs. The traditional method of cooking Soulfico requires patience and time as each vegetable had to be individually salted and drained. Then, the vegetables would have to be sautéd separately in Olive Oil, before layering them all together in a large stew pot to slow cook. However, faster and easier cooking methods have been created for busy modern lifestyles in which the vegetables are cooked all together or cooked in a deep fryer.
Champuru - Okinawa, Japan
The Champuru Dish is considered the representative dish of Okinawa. Champuru is a stir fry dish that consists of tofu, vegetables, meat, and/or fish. Like many Okinawan dishes, Champuru was influenced by different Southeast Asian cultures because of Okinawa’s history of extensive trade ties. There are different varieties of Champuru based on different cultural influences. For example, spam is often used as the meat in the dish because of Western influences from the U.S. Navy. Champuru means “something mixed” in Okinawan, but the term originates from the Malay or Indonesian word of “campur,” meaning mixed (4).
The classic Champuru dish is the Goya Champuru, and it includes bitter melon, tofu, pork, eggs, salt, and soy sauce. Fu Champuru adds wheat gluten instead of the bitter melon. Tofu Champuru uses tofu. Papaya Champuru uses thinly sliced strips of papaya. Mamina Champuru uses mung bean sprouts. Somen Champuru uses Somen noodles. Usually, each ingredient is cooked separately to preserve the taste of each food and combined in the final steps. The sauce is made from white miso, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and dashi, and the dish is topped with bonito flakes.
Gallo Pinto - Nicoya, Costa Rica
Blue Zone residents in Nicoya share many dishes with the rest of Costa Rica. They don’t necessarily have traditional dishes originating from Nicoya because the peninsula isn’t separated from the mainland like many other Blue Zones. Gallo Pinto is the National Dish of Costa Rica because it can be eaten with just about everything and eaten as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The name “Gallo Pinto” means “spotted rooster” in Spanish because the speckled appearance of the spotted rooster resembles the appearance of cooked rice with black beans. The dish is common all across Central America with different variations in each country, but there is a dispute about where the dish originated from between Costa Rica and Nicaragua (5).
The dish Gallo Pinto is a simple dish consisting of a base of white rice and black beans with peppers, garlic, onions, and coriander added for taste. Unlike Costa Rica, Nicaraguans use red beans instead of black beans. The white rice and black beans are pre-cooked and then fried with the rest of the vegetables together. In Costa Rica, a slightly spiced light brown sauce “Salsa Lizano” is used as the secret ingredient to make the perfect Costa Rican Gallo Pinto. Because the dish is so simple, Gallo Pinto is often eaten with other vegetables, meat, and tortilla.
Artichoke with Aioli Sauce - Loma Linda, United States of America
Unlike the rest of the Blue Zones, Loma Linda does not have any traditional dish based on their culture. Because many of the Blue Zone residents of Loma Linda are Seventh-day Adventists, they mostly prepare vegetarian or vegan meals. The Seventh-day Adventists follow strict diets that emphasize whole plant foods of legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains with little to no animal products. If animal products are incorporated into the diet, eggs, low-fat dairy, and “clean” meat or fish can be included in the Seventh-day Adventist diet (6).
If you're interested in trying a meal that resembles those found in the five Blue Zones, give artichokes with aioli sauce a try. A hearty vegetable frequently used throughout the Mediterranean, artichokes are rich in vitamins K and C and contain fiber for better digestive health.
Artichoke with Aioli Sauce is a simple vegetarian recipe inspired by the Mediterranean diet. The dish is relatively easy to make and can serve around 3 to 4 servings. The artichoke is first trimmed and then steamed and served with the lemon garlic aioli dipping sauce. The lemon garlic dipping sauce uses mayonnaise or olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cayenne pepper. The traditional Mediterranean aioli sauce uses olive oil but new and modern versions use mayonnaise instead of olive oil.
Written by Jimin Im
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the main components of Blue Zone diets?
A: The Blue Zone diet is typically made up of mostly plant-based foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, and monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil.
Q: Can I eat meat and dairy on the Blue Zone diet?
A: Eating meat and dairy is fine while on the Blue Zone diet, but they should be eaten moderately (once or twice a week) or occasionally (up to four times a month).
Q: What small changes can I make to start on the Blue Zone diet?
A: Try making substitutions, such as substituting butter with olive oil. Cutting down on sugar is helpful too!