Dan Buettner Blue Zones: How to Accomplish Health and Longevity Eating an American Diet [Episode #739]
This week’s topic is: Dan Buettner Blue Zones: How to Accomplish Health and Longevity Eating an American Diet
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Dan Buettner, who is a National Geographic Fellow, NY Times Best Selling Author, 3x Guiness World Record Holder and Founder of Blue Zones: Places around the world where people live the longest. Listen in as Dan shares how to manage the bridge between your current diet into a sustainable diet, real foods that taste good in less than 30 minutes, why support groups are important in living a healthy lifestyle, and so much more!
Managing the bridge between your current diet and into a sustainable diet…
Why taste, time, and price play a huge role in changing your diet…
Refuting complex carbs and what they are…
How important support groups are when living a healthy lifestyle…
What to do when you’re attached to meat, cheese and eggs…
Real foods that taste good in less than 30 minutes…
Your microbiome and how to ensure it’s getting enough fiber…
About Dan Buettner
Dan Buettner is an explorer, National Geographic Fellow, award-winning journalist and producer, and New York Times bestselling author. He discovered the five places in the world – dubbed blue zones hotspots – where people live the longest, healthiest lives. Buettner now works in partnership with municipal governments, large employers, and health insurance companies to implement Blue Zones Projects in communities, workplaces, and universities which has dramatically improved the health of more than 5 million Americans to date. His new book “The Blue Zones Challenge: A 4-Week Plan for a Longer Better Life” is a four-week guide and year-long sustainability program to jump-start your journey to better health, happiness, less stress, and longer life.
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Note: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate. This is due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Namaste loves and welcome back to our Monday interview show. I am so excited to have one of our favorite repeat guests back on the podcast today, the one and only Dan Buettner. He is a National Geographic fellow, a number one New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist, and the person who discovered the blue zones, which are these regions in the world where people are the healthiest and living the longest. He is back on the show today to talk about his very important new book called Blue Zones American Kitchen, where he delves into the heritage of different aspects of American culture from elders in Minnesota to the Quakers in New England, the traditional diet of Hawaii. And he’s worked with all these chefs to bring forward very delicious, accessible, inexpensive, easy to cook options to bridge the American diet where it currently is, where many of us feel like, oh, I have to eat a certain way.
This is how I grew up. And people that we know into this much more healthy way of eating that is plant based or largely plant based and based in whole Foods. Dan is such an important voice in the world today. He is a pioneer. He’s, he’s showing this through line, which is that we really can achieve health and vitality in a lot of it. Most of it comes from our lifestyle. So what I love about Dan’s work as well, which aligns so much with our community here, it’s not based on confusing studies and a bunch of numbers and ratios and percentages of carbs and all this stuff that can be so easily refuted between different diets. And all the discussion out there, he’s saying, Hey, look at the healthiest people in the world. This is what they’ve been doing for hundreds of years, and this is what we can learn and this is how we can implement it in our lives.
So Dan is working with, I believe, 72 cities and he’s implementing these practices to better the environment for people in these communities, making a healthy way of life and eating the option and reducing the advertising of junk food and implementing the very deep lifestyle changes. So he is literally a hero in the modern day. He is full of wisdom, and again, this comes from real life communities, which is why I love to hear about Dan’s work and his research. It’s not just based on lab studies or these, these, you know, limited pieces of, of research, which can often sort of refute each other and create more confusion. And his new book, blue Zone’s American Kitchen is for all of us. It’s accessible and it’s incredibly, um, powerful. For all of us to read and to implement into our daily family life. So I’m very excited, as you can tell, to get into our show today with Dan.
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And finally, our new book, baby, well, pretty New now. You Are More Than You Think You Are, is also out. And this is a book, this is a practical book about connecting to the energy inside of you and the abundance and the love and shaping your life from this inner connection. It’s very powerful and I share many personal stories about calling in my soulmate, our farm, just changing my life from a lot of lack and a lot of anxiety into living this life that I love. And I love to share what has helped. So please be sure to check out the new book as well. All right, all of that being said, let’s get right into our interview today with the incredible Dan Buettner.
Interview with Dan Buettner
Kimberly: 01:03 So you’re in my, you’re in Miami, Dan, is that, I feel like you’re all over the place. You’re, you’re traveling post in Europe.
Dan: 01:14 Yeah. My, the joke is, I, I travel like a viral pandemic. I was, I was in Israel, Cuba, and Tunisia in the last three weeks, but now I’m here in Miami for a week of, uh, uh, mostly talking to people like you, but mostly you right now. And, um, I’m looking at the ocean and, um, yeah, talking about this new book.
Kimberly: 01:36 Wait, so I have to tell you something funny. Dan, your name comes up so much. I’m always organically mentioning you on social and the lives. My husband said to me yesterday, he goes, if you ever gonna leave me for one man, it would be Dan Fu
Dan: 01:50 <laugh>. OK. With me. No, your husband seems incredibly cool. So I walked very, yeah. I love your Instagram because, you know, I know you’re a huge influencer, but you’re very generous with letting people peek into your personal life with your, your kids and your husband. You can, you can tell that you guys, um, you guys have such a, uh, you, you walk the talk, you know, you’re not just in a, in a booth, um, uh, pontificating, uh, how to feel good, and you know what products to use to feel good and, and what diet you, you’re living it and you’re looking it, by the way. So, um, yeah.
Kimberly: 02:30 Thank you, Dan. I, I think it is important to share, because like you said, it can just be, it can, it connects people to daily life, which is what so much of your book, your new book is about, which we’ll get into in just a moment. And I also wanna mention Dan, you know, we just, we have this, we’re very grateful and fortunate to have this little farm in Hawaii, and we were just coming back, and I love your post about the Japanese sweet potato, and there’s so much taro and heirloom taro. We’re, we’re planning to, to plant some on our land as well. The po the traditional, when you look at what’s happened in Hawaii, where unfortunately a lot of fast food came in, but when you look back in the history, taro and like a lot of these traditional root vegetables were part of the diet there too.
Dan: 03:14 Yeah. You know, before the, um, the, the, the Europeans came, there were 2 million people living in Hawaii, completely sustaining themselves in the early accounts. I talk about the Hawaiian diet in this blue zone American kitchen. Oh, when they arrived, the, the, uh, the first observations was what they were fit, beautiful hair, beautiful teeth. And then all of a sudden, you know, we, we foisted the American diet on these people. And, uh, now there’s still 2 million people living there, but they would be out of, if the boats don’t arrive with this largely processed food of Hawaii, be out of food in 10 days and doing what you’re doing, which is going back to those, uh, into rhythms. You know, the, the, um, TA was a staple food in Poy, which is kind of a, a mashed and, and liquified and fermented ta was, you know, they ate that every day. That was their Yeah. Enormously healthy and, um, acquired taste
Kimberly: 04:17 <laugh>. I, well, I love that. Exactly. It’s like we just get used to some of these different tastes without all the added salt and the sugar and all the, the, the crap in it. Um, so one of the things that I’m so excited about your new book, Dan, is, is I hear a lot of people say, okay, this makes sense. You know, the Blue Zones we’re looking at these traditional diets, but for them to see a bridge between the way that they eat and, you know, eating more this in the American diet, people are used to a certain way of eating, right? And so they can see, oh yeah, they eat that way in Costa Rica in different places. But what you’re doing in your new book and the programs and the recipes is showing, Hey, we can do this as Americans. There is a way to bridge out your current diet into this really sustainable, healthy diet.
Managing the bridge between your current diet and into a sustainable diet
Dan: 05:06 That’s right. We not only can do it, we’ve been doing it. And the point, and a bridge is actually the perfect metaphor because I found these diets of longevity and the blue zones like sarin and UCA and Okinawa and Niko and Costa Rica. Uh, but, uh, the point of this book was to find American cultures that actually ate this way. And ironically, you know, we tend to think that Native Americans and African Americans and soul food is not all that healthy. But if you wind back the clock and you look at the research, the dietary surveys, you see that about a hundred years ago, they were eating a blue zones diet. They were eating the diet of longevity. And, um, you know, the standard American diet, Kimberly kills 680,000 of US Americans every year. And the, these are premature, unnecessary deaths, more deaths by diet in the last 10 years than all of the wars, than the last hundred years. Yet we’re not paying enough attention to it. And, uh, the irony is that here, these under celebrated ethnicities, the Asian, Asian-American, Latins, native Americans and African Americans, uh, really hold the key to the diet of longevity. And all I did was sort of gather the, their wisdom and put it in one, one volume.
Kimberly: 06:28 And what’s great about it is there’s a, there’s an easefulness, a simplicity, there’s a lot of one pot meals. There’s just a lot of, um, simple way of eating. So we can actually eat. This way is what you also point out in the book, because today, you know, it’s like all these, all these recipes, it can feel overwhelming to people. So for people to bridge over Dan, as we know, it has to taste good and it has to be doable.
Why taste, time, and price play a huge role in changing your diet
Dan: 06:54 And I would also argue it has to be cheap or
Kimberly: 06:58 Relatively
Dan: 06:58 Cheap. Yes. And it has to be pretty quick because you’ll hear over and over, I think it’s bad math on people’s part. I think, uh, cooking at home adds enough time to your life that in the end, you, you actually, you know, you have more life if you’re cooking at home as opposed to eating out. But that’s a different story. But, uh, I made sure that the recipes in the Blue zones American kitchen are quick. Most of the vast majority are under half hour.
Kimberly: 07:26 Yes. So what were you doing in, in Tunisia recently as well?
Dan: 07:32 My, my brother lives there with his wife, and we had our whole family Thanksgiving there. So we all Oh wow. We all slept on planes and, you know, cross the ocean and had
Kimberly: 07:43 Oh, that’s amazing.
Dan: 07:45 Yeah.
Kimberly: 07:45 Oh, wow.
Dan: 07:46 We’re celebrating and, and you know, they’re going to work and they have no idea that it’s Thanksgiving in America. But we had a, we had a ball.
Kimberly: 07:54 Wow. So what kinds of foods did you eat for your Thanksgiving over there?
Dan: 07:58 Root vegetables. There’s still tons of root vegetables. Um, they’re, they’re very good at hummuses and, and, uh, harissa sauce, which is great on just about everything. Mashed potatoes, uh, we had sweet, sweet potatoes. Um, yeah, there’s a lot of good food.
Kimberly: 08:16 And, you know, and it goes back, yeah, the, the blue zones, again, the, one of the reasons I bring it up so much organically is because people get really fixated on these studies and certain things that seem really conflicting. Right? But then it always goes back to people saying to me, I feel like I need to eat more protein and less carbs. And then we look to these societies again that are eating rice, and they’re eating potatoes, and they’re eating sweet potatoes. And I, a huge percentage of my diet, Dan, is root vegetables. I also am a huge rice eater. I’m half Asian. It, you know, it works really well for me. I grew up eating rice almost every meal. So it’s like this deep myth integrated in the fabric of American culture that carbs always make you fat. How do you refute that in your, in your
Refuting complex carbs and what they are
Dan: 09:01 Real life? Re Well, here, let me tell you, the worst word in the nutrition dictionary, probably in the American lexicon actually, is carbohydrates. Yeah. Because people who, who, uh, um, lament and, and lamb bass carbs, if they’re talking about simple carbs like white sugar and white bread and, um, uh, candy and most cereals, but sugar can, yes, it’s the worst thing in our diet. But there’s another kind of carbs called complex carb where we found in blue zones about 65, two-thirds of all the calories they put in their mouth are complex carbs. And those are things like whole grains, rice included, uh, corn and, and wheat, uh, greens, probably 80 kinds of greens, root vegetables like sweet potatoes and Japanese sweet potatoes, which are called emo. You probably know something about those nuts. And beans and beans are the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world. And where we get tripped up is, you know, uh, lentil beans and chip peas and, and, uh, black beans, they’re, they’re card, but so are jelly beans. And, uh, you don’t wanna be eating the jelly beans. You wanna be eating the other kind. And they’re absolute opposite ends of the health spectrum.
Kimberly: 10:25 Well, yes. In, in your work, Dan, too. It’s like this holistic lifestyle versus kind of co mentalizing these one little aspects of diet. You’re saying this is a whole diet with whole vegetables and whole root vegetables and greens, like you said, that we’re looking at it wider.
Dan: 10:43 Well, it radiates out even farther than that. The, the, you know, I’ve written now seven books on blue zones, and, um, like you book best, most of them have been bestsellers. But, um, New York Times bestseller, the first ones really unpack the ecosystem, which is producing longevity. We, we live in a culture that’s constantly looking for the silver bullet. Yes. But there is no silver bullet for longevity. It’s a, it’s silver BugShot and it’s a cluster of mutually supporting, um, factors that help keep people doing the right thing and avoiding the wrong thing for long enough. So they’re not developing diabetes or gi cancer or heart disease or dementia. And yes, you know, the five things, the five interconnected people are eating mostly a whole food, plant-based diet. They’re moving naturally every 20 minutes. They’re not pumping iron, you know, they’re walking, they have a garden, they do their own house and yard work because their life is underpinned with purpose.
11:43 They have a circle of friends that reinforce these, uh, ways of living. And they live in places where the healthy choice is the easy choice. And where we get in trouble. And a lot of people are gonna be watching this podcast, uh, around the holidays or right after the holidays, and they’re gonna resolve to get healthier. And they get on a diet and they rely just on one leg of a five leg stool. And if you don’t have all five legs, that stool doesn’t stand up. I just made up that metaphor. <laugh>, I’ve never seen a five leg stool, but you know what I mean, <laugh>.
Kimberly: 12:18 Yes. And you and I have chatted a little bit before about having that support group, a community that is reinforcing, cuz it’s hard to stay on this if you have friends that are saying, well, blah, blah, blah, I think we should be doing the paleo, the ketos, how I lost weight. You gotta eat a lot more meat. Or, you know, these messages we get sometimes all the time.
How important support groups are when living a healthy lifestyle
Dan: 12:36 <laugh>. Well, I mean, you, you will lose weight on a keto diet. No, no question if you stay on a strict keto diet. But there’s two things wrong with that. The first thing is, uh, it’s never sustainable. If you look at the, the data on that, people stay on it one, two, maybe three months, almost nobody’s on it after two years. The other problem is it’s very hard on your organs, hard on your kidney. Um, it’s just hard on your arteries. Yeah. So, yes, if you, you know, if you’re trying to squeeze in a dress for a prom or you know, a your, your daughter’s wedding or something, um, yeah, you can go keto. But by the way, one of the interesting things about a hundred percent whole food plant based, if you look at the Adventist health study, which followed a hundred thousand, uh, people, Americans mostly for 30 years, you find that the people who are vegan, a hundred percent plant based weighed 20 pounds less than their meat, cheese, and egg eating counterparts.
Kimberly: 13:36 Yeah.
Dan: 13:37 One of the most effective diets is turn off your brain, eat whole food, plant based, you’re gonna lose weight. You’re not gonna get diabetes, you’re not gonna, you’re very unlikely to develop heart disease. The heart, heart, heart attacks are almost a hundred percent. Okay. Not a hundred, but they’re 95% avoidable if you’re eating a whole food plant based diet.
Kimberly: 14:00 So how do we address in your new book, Dan, on the Blue Zones American Kitchen, about the Americans that say to you, okay, I can get it, but I I’m so attached to the taste of the meat, the cheese, the, you know, the, the, the eggs in your recipes in your book. How do we, how do we address that? How do we bridge that? That’s a very strong sensory attachment. Yeah.
What to do when you’re attached to meat, cheese and eggs
Dan: 14:22 So, okay. What do you think about meat? What do you get with meat? It’s a package. It is a texture. Yes. And it is a, uh, it’s
Kimberly: 14:30 A heaviness. Yeah,
Dan: 14:32 Yeah, yeah. Um, it, it’s, so, it’s a, yeah, it’s a heaviness, a texture and fat. Just, that’s, that’s the flavor, you know, basically takes on whatever flavor you do it. So we have a, I have a recipe here. I have cud up that I learned from the, the longest lived demographic in America. Hawaiian American women, savory garlic tofu with men’s mushrooms. So the mushrooms have a very meaty texture. Uh, you have, they use, um, um, uh, sesame seed oil. So you get that fat, there’s a saltiness. The tofu is prepared in such a way that it’s, it’s meaty, it’s cold protein. Um, you know, I took my dad along on this journey. My dad grew up at a farm eating meat and potatoes. He still eats meat and potatoes, not as much. But, um, well that’s, I brought him with me. I mean, this was a National Geographic serious, uh, expedition.
15:31 But I brought my eighties old dad with me. Roger worked at a farm. He tasted every single recipe. And, you know, I took him to OK Canal on the last book too. And he basically thumbs down on eight outta 10 recipes. And he still thumbs down, probably three outta 10 here in America. He gave the thumbs down, didn’t make it into the, into the book, because I know he’s the Middle America vote. Yes. He’s, he’s not, he, you know, he’s an napal his taste buds with cheese, eggs, and meat all the time. So these recipes are formulated with the herbs and the spices for flavor. They have some oil in there. Uh, so you get that flavor. And we pay lots of very interesting textures in mouth fields where, you know, you bite down. It doesn’t give we right away. And then it gives, and you get that kind of satisfying caribous, uh, um, uh, response, I guess.
Kimberly: 16:30 And I, I feel like that’s been the through line in your books. And this one particularly, is using real foods that tastes good. We don’t have to go out and spend a fortune on some of these and processed, you know, the, the, the vegan cheeses and things like that, that can, that can feel unhealthy. You’re using just actual herbs, spices, flavors, taste, and it tastes, I’ve used your recipes. They taste really good.
Real foods that taste good in less than 30 minutes
Dan: 16:54 Thank you, Kimberly. Yeah. I, I, you know, I, I worry about those, uh, you know, I, I understand the vegan cheeses and butters and, and meats and so forth. And it’s a good bridge, I think, to get you away from the animal dead animals that we, we, you know, eat all the time or their products. Um, but they’re, you wanna kind of get to your, uh, foods where you’re not pulling a wrapper off of it. Yeah. And, um, that’s, that’s really the food. That’s, that’s, you know, vegan is great for the environment, is great for animals, and that’s really important. Uh, health tends to take us a second backseat to the more ethical concerns. Uh, but for those people interested in health and those other two, if you can get yourself to you, you know, learning how to make beans taste good. Yeah. Man, I’ll tell you what, have you ever seen the price of dry beans
Kimberly: 17:49 And lentils get
Dan: 17:50 Food in the grocery store? It’s
Kimberly: 17:51 True. You get so many meals out of like a pound of lentils for a few dollars.
Dan: 17:57 I went to Costco not too long ago. I saw a 25 pound bag of pinto beans for 9 99. <laugh> I hear all the time, I can’t afford to eat healthy. Are you kidding me? Yeah. You get that beans, you get some rice, you get some nice herbs. A recipe from one of my books. Or you know, Michael Gregor’s got good. You have great book. You know, you get recipes on your website. Um, it doesn’t matter where you get the recipe. What matters is, instead of spending the money and the resource and the time on the a new fad diet, take that time. Get together with your family, if you can page through one of your books, one of my books, several great plant-based books. Find a dozen recipes you think your family would like with you would like, and then learn how to cook them. Make sure you got the right pots and pans and implements.
18:53 Uh, go on a store adventure and buy the ingredients and invest some time to make it. And then, you know what the, what sealant is after you find, if you cook with your kids and after you find you like it, you invite some friends over and start building a community around this food. Yeah. That’s what lasts. Cause when it comes to longevity there, there’s no short term fish. You can’t cook, um, sar DNA tron or a gu geechee gumbo and eat it once and say, I’m gonna live an extra five years. No, it’s not the way it works. You gotta think about things you’re gonna do for decades, years, or decades. Not things that you’re gonna do for the once or twice or for the next month, because those short, short term things don’t make any difference.
Kimberly: 19:40 Exactly. And talking about community, it starts with the family. Right. So here we’re talking about Blue Zones, American kitchen families. And one thing that, you know, I’m, I’m passionate about sharing about Dan is I am fully plant based. And both my kids have been fully plant based since conception. My husband comes in and out. He does eat a much smaller percentage of meat, but he does eat meat. But the three of us are fully plant based. And sometimes when I talk about this with other moms, they, you know, there’s worry about that. There’s worry about the protein. And one mom actually said to me recently, she read, um, nourishing Traditions by Westin Price, Dr. Weston Price, who was this dentist
We share our thoughts on eating meat and its effects on the body
Dan: 20:21 Who,
Kimberly: 20:22 You know, went
Dan: 20:22 Around. He had some good research, but he was, he went a little off the, off the, uh, reservation with this meat findings.
Kimberly: 20:29 Yes. Can we talk about that a little bit? Because the Western price puts out a lot of, there’s soci, there’s a lot about you need to eat sausage and meat and otherwise your kids may not have strong teeth and grow health healthily enough. Well, can you talk about that? Yeah. With your research
Dan: 20:44 As well. Well, first of all, uh, they, I don’t know if they are now, but they were funded by the Cattleman’s Association and, you know, you follow the money on these organizations, so Yes. Um, but okay, the truth in Blue Zones, you know, and I write for National Geographic, the fact checkers occupy the corner offices. So you, I can’t even, if I wanted to exaggerate or, or give an opinion, uh, my editors wouldn’t let me. Um, if you look, if you look at Blue Zones over the last hundred years, uh, on average all five Blue Zones, we did a meta-analysis of, uh, uh, 155 dietary surveys. They meet five times a month. Um, that’s about once a week. And it was usually used as a condiment or celebratory food. So, by the way, but they lived in, they didn’t live in an environment where calories are just falling out all over the place.
21:41 They were calorically restricted involuntarily. They were not a fad diet. They were trying to get every calorie they could. And goats were pretty good at, and sheep were pretty good at aggregating calories over, you know, this kind of prickly, uh, pasture land that not much grows in. Um, but, um, so we don’t know, you know, I personally don’t eat meat either. I, I think it’s a bad idea. Uh, and the blue zone American kitchen is a hundred percent plant based. You know, I know very well people wanna put some meat in there, they’re gonna put meat in there. But I, I made sure the recipes stand on their own, uh, delicious without any animal products. But, you know, to be journalistically truthful, I don’t know if people lived a long time, uh, over their lifetime because they ate a little meat or in spite of it. Right. Um, but I do know that meat consumption has skyrocket in the last 20 years as have other, um, processed foods. And with that, we see the spiking of diabetes and heart disease and their longevity phenomena is, is disappearing in almost all, all blue zones, especially Okinawa, by the way. Which Okinawa is not really even a blue zone anymore because, um, it’s so unhealthy because they imported the standard American diet with Yeah. McDonald’s and Burger Kings and the a w Root Beer stands. And oh God, it just makes me sad.
Kimberly: 23:08 Well, and you know, besides longevity to Dan, I just had this Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Palmer, on the podcast, and he was showing a connection between mental disorders and illness, anxiety, depression and obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Those three things correlate meaning diet is having such a profound effect on our mental wellbeing. And so I think about children, the rise of adhd and all these, um, things that people are, or children are being prescribed for. And so I think, you know, you guys are asking me, oh, about the protein for the children. And I say, what about all the, the micronutrients? And what about the fiber? Right? That’s really sustaining their microbiome and, and giving them all around health. It’s easy to get protein. And when you look at your recipes, again, if kids are eating hummus and they’re eating beans and they’re eating lentils and they’re eating mushrooms and all these amazing foods, that’s not what we should be worrying about. It’s giving your kids a colorful whole, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s exciting to eat plant-based too, for my kids. Cuz I feel like there’s such a much larger range of things that we introduce.
Your microbiome and how to ensure it’s getting enough fiber
Dan: 24:10 Absolutely. Absolutely. You brought, you brought up fiber. I, I wrote this story in the National Geographic about three years ago about the, uh, diet of longevity. And as part of that, I interviewed really the top dietary experts in the world. Uh, both epidemiology, but also sort of the responsible ones from Oxford and Harvard and Yale. And, um, only about 10% of Americans get enough fiber. And our microbiome, which is at the end of our, you know, digestive tract that weighs about six pounds. It’s arguably the biggest organ in our body. And it’s composed, uh, composed of about a hundred trillion bacteria. The good bacteria eat only one thing. Fiber, they don’t eat fat, they don’t eat protein, they don’t eat carbohydrates, they eat fiber. When they eat fiber, they reward us with something called short chain fat acid. And when that leeches into our bloodstream, it, uh, modulates inflation, uh, uh, inflammation.
25:16 I wish, I wish it worked out inflation too. But basically it puts a wet blanket on inflammation in our body. Inflammation’s the root of every major age related disease. It fine tunes our immune system and it releases these hormones that make us feel good. And if you don’t, if your microbiome is not getting enough fiber, those hungry bacteria turn on the mucus membrane in your bowels and they, they fit it making you more susceptible to irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut. Uh, and that’s when problems really green outta control. So the good news about the way you eat with these leafy vegetables, uh, and, and, and any kind of vegetables is you’re feeding all those hungry bacteria a variety of fiber and they, like a variety by the Metamucil is not gonna do it. They like a whole bunch of fibers. And here’s the easy fix people look for superfood all the time.
Kimberly: 26:17 Yeah.
Dan: 26:19 Eat a couple of beans a day. You get about half of all your fiber needs. It’s associated the
Kimberly: 26:25 Real
Dan: 26:25 Super’s the life expected. Yes. People ask me, do they take any supplements in the blue zones? And I say, yeah, they take about 125 a day, 125 black beans. That’s their supplements.
Kimberly: 26:39 And and also Daniel, we talked about the, the beans and the toefl, going back to Costco for a minute, cuz we have a membership as well, 6 99 for a huge bag of quinoa. And that’s what I do with my kids. Quinoa also flavors with whatever you’re putting it in, all the different Yeah. And it’s so affordable and easy to cook. So back to this accessibility for the American kitchen, the American family. Brilliant. The busy mom. Right. These are it Oh, it’s easier to eat this way and like you said, inexpensive.
Dan: 27:11 Inexpensive. And you feel better. Yes. You know, I went recently to Burger Cane to get, uh, one of the impossible whoppers, you know, they’re plant based. Okay.
27:23 Oh, was delicious. Delicious. I had 90 seconds of pure bliss as I wolf that thing down. But in about a half hour, I started feeling like crap. And that I was lethargic. My brain wasn’t sharp for another two hours. Wow. When you eat, um, Sarge and Metron or something like that, or, or a beautiful stir fry, you feel good. You, you don’t feel hungry. Uh, you, you didn’t get the sugar spike. And then the crash you do if you eat like a bowl of typical American cereal or, or you know, pudding or, you know, yogurts by the way are mostly sugar these days, or not mostly, but they have more sugar than Coke do. Coke does ounce well. Um, but the point is, you know, the answer to most of our healthcare problems are right under our noses and we miss it. And, um, it’s nobody’s fault. But if you wanna find the secret of longevity in America, I argue it’s within the, this diet, uh, that I unpack in the Blue Zone American kitchen.
Kimberly: 28:32 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well, so we talked about taste, we covered it, and I promise Dan’s recipes taste really good and they’re simple, which is so important. But number two, I wanna address another concern that I also hear in our community, Dan, which is, mm, when I eat this way, I do feel, I I’m worried that I will be hungry in a d you know, in a few hours or it’s not gonna keep me full. So it’s true if you eat a big lump of steak, there’s like a heaviness in your body, but I often find it’s a transition into getting used to eating, um, getting full from fiber versus a lump of, of fat and protein. What, what would you say to that concern and with your book?
Blue Zones and concerns about feeling satiated
Dan: 29:11 Well, there’s very good research that shows that if you actually, if you start your morning, I hate to keep going back to it, but if you start your morning with beans, it satiates you for about four hours. Mm. Uh, you’re way more likely to be satiated with, with throughout the morning, uh, with beans rather than eggs and bacon, which are gonna make you feel lethargic or bowl of cereal. So it’s just false. It’s, it’s not true. Yes. It takes a lot longer for your, your digestive system to metabolize meat. You know, they’ll be rot rotting down there for three hours as it makes the journey out the other end, um, at
Kimberly: 29:48 Least. Right. Or more <laugh>.
Dan: 29:51 Yeah.
Kimberly: 29:51 Rotting. Rotting. Yeah.
Dan: 29:53 But eating a high fiber food, uh, like, like beans, uh, you’ll, you’ll feel full for three or four hours and you won’t get the spike.
Kimberly: 30:04 It, it’s just another myth that people have to understand that there’s, you know, and it’s also your, your our comfort zone. This is the foods I grew up with, this is what I’m used to cooking. What if it doesn’t taste good? But I think what’s powerful about your book, your new book is laying out very powerful facts. And then here’s a way to follow it that’s really simple. And you can just start to, I would encourage people to just try some of the recipes, read the book, and then try some of the recipes and see if you master five recipes or three to three to seven recipes, let’s say, then you can start to incorporate it. I think it’s important to feel comfortable with just a few. You don’t have to choose everything overnight, you know, and then it’s sustainable.
Dan: 30:48 I you’re absolutely right. Try try seven it first you’re gonna find recipes you like, you’re gonna find food you like, and it may just completely open your eyes.
Kimberly: 30:58 Yeah. And the the different approach here that I, like, I loved your last book, you know, where you went to the different countries and you and we, these gorgeous National Geographic pictures, but for some people saying, oh, that’s amazing, that’s how they eat in Japan, but this is how I eat here in America. And then this book just says, well actually this is how we can eat in America, and this is the healthy way. This is the real healthy way.
Dan: 31:23 So for the book, during the pandemic, uh, first of all, I did the research with NYU about 150 hours to find these, these, um, basically cultures of food traditions. And then I hired a producer, Karen, for Foley, who found me 55 chef slash historians who still can reproduce this diet of longevity as eaten about a hundred years ago. And we went from Maine to Miami to Maui to Minnesota. I mean, we had all during the pandemic and it, I had National Geographics best photographer, David McClain. And, um, so he did the photography, I did the science reporting. Um, I, I have an article coming up in January’s National Geographic, which unpacked this diet of longevity. And then, uh, but I know people like recipes, so I spent a lot of time sitting and cooking with these 55. And the stunning part about it, Kimberly, is these are people who live among us.
32:23 They’re largely under celebrated chefs. But the great irony is the, the secret to longevity, um, is, is could be two streets over, uh, as opposed to being in Japan. Right. You know, 680,000 Americans will die needlessly this year, according to CDC eating the standard American diet that’s more than all the wars combined. Wow. Yeah. We don’t pay much attention to it. We still, there’s this unfettered marketing of packaged food and processed food and food with sugar in it, and meaty, cheesy, you know, if we put, uh, as much effort in, uh, saving those 680,000 people, um, you know, as we do our, you know, defense, which, um, you know, it’s, well, maybe we’d probably save a lot more lives than, than, um, than, uh, all the, all the people died in all the wars since, since World War I.
Kimberly: 33:26 It, it’s mind blowing when you put it in that context. It’s shocking. We’re we’re, there’s literally digging our graves with the fork as as they say, ah,
Dan: 33:36 That’s, that’s, that’s exactly right. <laugh>. But, you know, I I also point out people often think that, well, that is your fault. I, if you’re unhealthy and overweight in America, I actually don’t believe it’s your fault. Uh, in 1980, we had about a third as many people who were suffering from obesity as we do today. We spent a, a third as much of our GDP on healthcare. We had a seventh rate of DIA type two diabetes. Uh, by some estimates a 10th is much dementia, uh, among older people. And what changed, uh, are there, were there better diets back then? No. Were people smarter back then? No. Were people more disciplined or, you know, they had more individual responsibility? No, in fact, they, they knew less then than we do now, but yet it’s created outta control. What’s the problem? The problem is the number of fast food, rest re restaurants has gone up by a factor of 20, uh, over 50% of all retail outlets, not just stores, but where you get your tires changed and where you pick up your diabetes medicine also sells you chips, sodas, and, and, uh, candy bars. You can’t. And we’re genetically hardwired to crave fat, sugar, and salt, and you can’t escape it. And, um, you can only ask people to have so much discipline. So anyway, anyways, a long winded way of saying what’s, what’s killing us is not necessarily our fork, but it’s our whole food environment.
Kimberly: 35:10 Yes.
Dan: 35:11 Um, that we marinate in
Kimberly: 35:13 The culture. Well, I get this question sometimes, Dan, how would you answer some people deep in, you know, different, different places in America? Say, I don’t have access to fresh food. I don’t have farmer’s markets. There’s not great actual produce in my supermarket. But then we talk about the beans and the chemo, the things that are Dr
What to do when you don’t have access to farmer’s markets
Dan: 35:33 Yeah. You know where I was gonna go with that? Yeah,
Kimberly: 35:35 Yeah. Tell us what you say to to that.
Dan: 35:37 Go to Costco and buy a 25 pound bag of beans, another 25 pound bag of rice. You get some herbs, you get some extraversion olive oil.
Kimberly: 35:46 You can cook your, you can grow your own herbs too really easily as well. Yeah.
Dan: 35:51 Those are super easy to grow, Hazel. Yeah. You grow ’em in, in your kitchen in a, in a little, in a little kitchen, um, uh, pot like where you normally have flowers. It’s, it’s, it’s, and, and, okay. Is it ideal to be eating the rainbow and fresh leaf organic leafy vegetable? Yes. But you get about 95% the way there with beans in a grain. So for you, with your age in, uh, heritage at beans and rice, but for a Latino, it’s beans and corn tortilla. You can go to Trader Joe’s and buy, uh, a hundred percent whole grain, uh, corn tortillas for pennies of piece. And you make some beans with some Cuban and some onions in there. Uh, you’re gonna recognize those flavors and you make delicious bean tacos. If you’re Italian, uh, you can make a mintron with beans and beans and fi jole, which is, you know, basically just beans, uh, carrots and celery. Uh, not that hard to find. Even in inner city bodegas you can often find them. And some onions, uh, can of tomatoes. Man, I’ll tell you what, you have a delicious meal you can make in less than a half hour, and that will really nourish. It’ll get you 95% the way there to a healthy meal.
Kimberly: 37:05 Well, and that sounds delicious. I’m actually getting hungry now. But you know, Dan, while we’re here together, I really wanna smash all the doubts out. So there’s another one that, you know, especially because we’re marinating in this culture with keto and pale, and a lot of people say, well, corn and soy and tofu, that’s really bad for you. Right? It’s just this idea like, you shouldn’t eat corn, you shouldn’t eat tofu. What, what would you say to those, those people?
Smashing the doubts about corn, soy, and tofu
Dan: 37:29 Well, the longest live women in the history of the world, OK islands, uh, eight, eat about eight times more tofu than we do. Um, there you go. Or so refined corn, you know, in a Frito or tortilla or, uh, or Dorito. Not all that good for you, but, uh, a corn done. There’s a, there’s a process called niche ization, where essentially they add, um, um, calcium carbonate to remove the husk. And, uh, but that makes the niacin and, and the amino acids, uh, uh, uh, bioavailable. It’s something that the, uh, me Americans have been doing for 7,000 years. Um, that, well, I, it’s a, it’s a, it’s almost a whole grain. It’s cheap. Uh, it’s healthy. I, I’m not aware of anybody bad mouthing corn and tortillas.
Kimberly: 38:28 Right, okay. So it’s just, it’s the form again. And also with, with the tofu, like you said, they’re eating it there. It’s, it’s easy to get non GMO soy, uh, tofu, actual chunks of tofu, which my family loves and we incorporate in our diet as well. The kids love it. I cook it up, give it, give them, give it to them with veggies. And it’s very satiating.
Dan: 38:49 I’m not aware. That’s another thing if you, if you get people so scared that Oh, it’s not organic or, or it’s not, it’s not, uh, uh, yeah, it’s g it’s gmo. I’m not gonna touch that. No. I mean, I ideally, if you can afford organic, get organic, if you can get something that hasn’t been genetically modified, get it. But that should not be the determining factor of what you, you know, instead what are they gonna go buy the, uh, the frozen pizza?
Kimberly: 39:18 The, the deli meat? The, the, like the slicey. Yeah.
Dan: 39:22 A hundred times more unhealthy for you. Yes. Yeah. I don’t know of any really good research that shows that genetically modified, um, food is bad before you. And they’re sort of, I’ve seen some maybe marginalized studies Yeah. But not know any real, really good studies. Um, every single plant we eat, the seed has been modified over time. Yes. It’s been selected. So, you know,
Kimberly: 39:49 We’re focusing on the wrong thing. It goes back to the wrong focus. Right, exactly. And, and also, I just wanna say, what’s so powerful about all your Blue Zones work, and especially with this new book, blue Zone’s American Kitchen, like you said, you’re looking at the, the, the heritage within our country. There’s so many scary fads, Dan, there’s the carnivore diet right now where people are not eating any vegetables. They’re eating 100% lamb or meat or whatever they’re eating. And I think, what, how is this sustainable? You know, there’s who shall remain unnamed? Some of the biggest, you know, media people and podcast hosts are promoting this. And I think, well, you know, where, where have we come to where we’re, we’re being taught now, like tomatoes and, and, and greens are bad to eat. What is going on? There’s no context for that. There’s no historical data. It’s very scary.
Dan shares his thoughts around scary fads
Dan: 40:41 Yeah. Well, I do, there’s one doctor who will go on name who, uh, am bass lectins, you know, and he asserts that nightshades like tomatoes and yes. And beans have lectins in it. But, um, you follow the money on that guy. That guy makes most of his money selling anti lectin supplements. So not shocking that his, uh, his gospel would preach, stay away from lectins. Um, but you know, when you cook food, the lectins are neutralized. And when you rinse beans, most of ’em are rinsed away. So, and the longest, the pe in the history of the world have been eating beans and tomatoes for millennia Italians. Yeah. People in Northern Italy have about a third. The rate of obesity that we do, they pasta with the tomato sauce on every day. Uh, they have 33 different kinds of beans. They’re, they’re eating all the time. They don’t have to mention that. I mean, they don’t have diabetes. They don’t have near the rate of heart disease. They’re not walking around, you know, having to sit in double wide seats. Um, it’s, it’s just
Kimberly: 41:46 <laugh>. Well, you are implementing your program in these cities with people that you know are, are you’re getting results. And what I would say to anybody who feels confused, there’s all these numbers out there. How many carbs am I supposed to be eating? What’s so powerful about your program as well? We’re not micromanaging numbers, we’re just saying focus on whole foods. Cook in simple, delicious ways, and you get healthier. It’s a very simple, powerful way of living that eliminates all this, you know, really detrimental confusion.
Not micromanaging numbers when incorporating Blue Zones recipes into your life
Dan: 42:19 That’s right. If you can, if it’s a whole food and it’s plant-based, you can pretty much turn your brain off. If that’s all you eat, you’re probably not gonna overeat it. You’re probably not gonna get fat. You’re probably not gonna develop diabetes or heart disease or one of many kinds of cancers. Uh, it’s probably gonna be put there. I mean, there’s some, you know, you need vitamin b12 and it’s good to eat some greens once in a while. Um, but, but, uh, um, if you just follow that simple adage, um, you’re well on your way to a hundred.
Kimberly: 42:49 I’m, I’m sure you’ve seen some amazing real life stories in your program, Dan. Just seeing people turn things around, turn their weight around, turn their health around by implementing the Blue Zones Diet.
Dan: 43:03 So, you know, our approach has mostly been, uh, working with entire city. So I, I write for National Geographic for fun, but my day job is, is we get paid. I, uh, well, our team has 200, about 200 full-time employees. Wow. And we get hired by insurance companies and hospital systems to go into communities. And rather than try to convince everybody living in that community to eat a certain way, we help shape the environment. So the healthy choice is the easy choice. So it’s not just food, uh, but we make, we help city council, uh, consider ordinances and, and, um, codes that make their streets more walkable. You can, you can raise a physical activity level of entire city by 20% by adopting something called Complete Streets, which makes sure every New Street has a sidewalk and a bike path, and it’s safe to walk some trees.
44:05 Uh, we work with cities to, uh, curb junk food marketing, um, limit the, uh, exposure. Kids have to junk food marketing, you know, billboards. We found that if you pull billboards out of the neighborhood, the bmi, where the weight goes down by about 10%, by just taking away that kind of, uh, ubiquitous prompt to remind people to go get a soda pop or go buy a burger after dinner. And then, um, then we have a certification program, uh, for schools, restaurants, grocery stores, workplaces and churches. And it’s my, my team’s job over about a five year period to get a couple dozen policies passed so that the healthy choice is easier to get. About 30% of all places certified. And then a third team works with about 15% of the adult population, uh, to become Blue Zones ambassadors, to reshape their social environments and their home environments.
45:04 So their unconscious decisions are better all day long, because relying on people to remember to do something or to conjure discipline or presence of mind will often work in the short run, but it fails for almost all the people, almost all the time in the long run. So if you, if you’re not focusing on decades, uh, of change, forget about, you’re not gonna make a difference. Uh, but this has been exceedingly successful. It’s an idea drawn right from the Blue Zones. Wow. Don’t try to change people’s minds, change their environments. And, uh, Fort Worth Texas alone, one of our 72 cities, uh, they saw a 3% drop in obesity. And according to Gall, we save them about a quarter of a billion dollars a year in projected healthcare costs. So this approach really does work.
Kimberly: 46:00 That is so exciting, Dan. And just thank you so much for your incredible work. You’re so humble and you rattled this stuff off, but you’re making such a deep change generation intergenerationally with all these millions of people in the world. And thank you again so much for this new book, which is so powerful. Blue Zones American Kitchen, the recipes, there’s so many recipes from chefs. The information is clear, it’s accessible, it’s irrefutable. When you see the historical context, tell us where we can get it, Dan, and where we can learn more about your work as well.
Dan: 46:33 Yes. The dan butner.com, you can order it there, or just on Amazon, it’s out December 5th. Um, it looks great on a coffee table, great geographic photography, or it’s a hundred recipes that live to a hundred, or you can buy it for somebody else. You want to live for a long time. Don’t buy it for your enemies, though. I’m just kidding. But, uh, and, uh, I’m at, at Dan Butner on Instagram, and if you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer them directly.
Kimberly: 47:02 So it’s, it’s a perfect time, Dan, with the, with the holidays coming up, you know, people get these, like, you know, I say like crappy filler presents that get thrown off, or they’re just creating clutter. What a great book. Books are one of the most powerful gifts to give. It’s beautiful. The National Geographic photography, like you said, give the book, give this gift of health, give it to all your relatives, and then it’s just a, it’s an amazing thing to pass along. So thank you so much again, Dan, for being with us, for sharing your wisdom. Um, we have had this so much fun with the, with the Blue Zone Summit. It’s always fun to chat with you. And,
Dan: 47:37 And thank you for participating. You’re such a sweetheart. And you know, to your followers listening, let me just tell you, she’s as wonderful in person as she is on the, on the computer screen.
Kimberly: 47:47 Thank you, Dan. But I will always sing your praises because we, I, I 1000 thousand percent really believe in your work and you know, it, it is effective. It is making people healthier. It tastes delicious. It is the answer. And I believe that with all my heart. So thank you so much, Dan, for everything you do, lots of love.
Dan: 48:05 Send, need a big telephonic hug here, big Zumba, <laugh> and everybody else. Thank you for sitting for an hour with us and, and, uh, and listening to what we have to say.
Kimberly: 48:14 Amazing.
I hope you enjoyed our podcast today, this conversation with Dan. As much as I absolutely loved chatting with him, please be sure to check out his new book, Blue Zone’s American Kitchen, wherever books are sold, we will link to it in the show notes as well as some previous podcasts with Dan I think you would enjoy and some other conversations. Please also be sure to check out our site for other resources. We’ve got free meditations, recipes that are plant based and whole food based as well, other, uh, podcasts, as I mentioned, really incredible products to support digestion, high performance skincare, many, many resources on there. So I’ll be back here Thursday for our next q and a show. Till then, sending you so much love Namaste.