The so-called blue zones have the largest number of long-lived people. Herbs have been shown to have an endless array of health benefits, including supporting a healthy immune system, fighting free radicals and inflammation in the body, and even preventing chronic diseases such as cancer – meaning they are naturally associated with increased risk.
The so-called blue zones are home to the largest number of long-livers, as herbs and spices are the basis of dishes in each of these regions (including drinks).
It was found that people living in the five regions of the blue zone are among the longest-lived on the planet. In these areas, people not only regularly live to be in their triple digits, but their minds and bodies are still working well.
There are many lifestyle factors that Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner has found that people in these regions share, including low-stress levels, mobility throughout the day, and focus. However, much of the research on longevity comes down to a healthy diet.
The foods most commonly consumed in blue zones do not contain processed ingredients or added sugars; rather, they consist of whole foods, especially plants. This includes many beneficial herbs and spices that reduce the risk of disease and promote longevity.
They have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that boost heart health, immunity, and healing, and add flavor to food without any nutritional disadvantages.
Here are five herbs that are common in the diets of the Blue Zone regions. By incorporating them into your cooking, you’ll get a heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich boost associated with longevity. And in the short term, they are guaranteed to improve the taste of everything you eat.
Fennel can be used in three different ways: the bulb can be used as a vegetable, the leaves as a seasoning, and the seeds as a condiment.
“Fennel is rich in vitamins A, B, and C, high in fiber, and can act as a diuretic and help control blood pressure,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, author of The Protein Breakfast. Both the bulb and seeds of fennel also contain the mineral manganese, which is important for enzyme activation, cell protection, bone development, blood sugar regulation, and wound healing.
Fennel also contains other minerals that are important for bone health (such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium) and contains dozens of plant compounds that act as powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.
When it comes to cooking, fennel is incredibly versatile-remember the three different and delicious edible parts mentioned above? You can serve fennel as a roasted vegetable side dish, chop raw pieces from it into salads, or roast the beans and/or seeds and puree them for sauces and spreads.
It is also delicious in soups and pasta, as it is in the blue zone of Sardinia. “Fennel is used in the Sardinian soup minestrone, which is a lunch staple here. It’s made with seasonal vegetables, herbs, and beans,” adds Harris-Pincus. It will give you a good dose of fiber and protein in addition to immune-boosting properties.
“Oregano is rich in antioxidants and compounds that have been shown to help fight bacteria,” says Harris-Pincus. Antioxidants can help prevent cellular damage by neutralizing disease-causing free radicals in the body and reducing inflammation. found that oregano is effective against 23 types of bacteria.
Oregano not only brings health benefits but also enhances the flavor of other nutrient-rich foods, making plant-based foods such as vegetables and beans even more appealing. “This herb enhances the flavor of any tomato-based dish, vegetarian chili, fish, or beans.” The rich herbal flavor of oregano is ideal with seafood, Greek salads, soups, moussaka, or whole-grain pasta.
Rosemary is not only delicious in many dishes, but it is also an excellent source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B6. The herb has also been shown to improve cognitive health, increase memory retention, and help your immune system function at its best.
This is because rosemary contains an ingredient called carnosic acid, which can fight free radical damage to the brain, but it’s also due to its wonderful (and strong) flavor.
“Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants, which can also help fight age and strengthen your immune system,” says Iliz Shapiro, MD. “Try drinking rosemary tea or sprinkling rosemary on grilled vegetables,” says Shapiro. You can also use it in recipes with chicken, lamb, and salmon with the addition of citrus.
Cilantro is a brightly colored herb commonly used on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, one of the five regions of the blue zone. It contains many antioxidants and has been shown to fight inflammation and reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, especially heart disease. A study on mice also showed that cilantro leaves improve memory, suggesting that this plant can be used for Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.
“In addition, cilantro can help digestion, lower blood sugar, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Harris-Pincus. – It’s also great in salsas, bean salads, and even in place of basil in pesto sauce. “It also tastes great in tacos, salads, enchiladas, grain plates, egg dishes, and more.
For centuries, garlic has been known for its medicinal properties, and it makes sense since it is a staple food in all blue zone regions, especially Okinawa, Japan. Although it is not technically an herb-garlic belonging to the onion family-it is used in cooking as a similar health-promoting flavoring. “Garlic has been proven time and time again to help strengthen your immune system and fight off colds. It can also help lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol,” says Shapiro.
In one study, 600 mg to 1500 mg of aged garlic extract was shown to be as effective as the drug Atenolol in lowering blood pressure over a six-month period.
Obviously, this ingredient is linked to longevity. Try adding garlic to sauteed spinach and brown rice. Add it to olive oil and marinades, or use it in stir-fry recipes, as a seasoning for sauces or for fried fish.