“Blue Zones” and broad bean toasts

What are “blue zones”? People live long and healthy lives, up to 100 years, in these places. One of the first groups of centenarians was studied in Sardinia, Italy; similar groups also live in Ikaria in Greece, Okinawa in Japan, the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica and Loma Linda in California. Residents of the “blue zones” take daily walks, garden and cycle, spend time with friends and family, have goals in life, manage stress well and are often members of social or religious groups. Their diet is based on plants and complex carbohydrates, and they stop eating before they are satiated. They consume meat only five times a month and do not drink cow’s milk but eat goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses such as feta and pecorino.

Could broad bean toasts revolutionise the British diet? The Raising the Pulse project aims to encourage British consumers and food producers to switch to bread containing broad beans, which is healthier and less harmful to the environment. Brits import the soya beans currently used to make bread and have broad beans, also known as horse beans, which are rich in the easily digestible protein, fibre and iron so rarely present in the British diet. Five teams of scientists from the University of Reading, along with farmers, industry and policymakers, are working together to make one of the most significant changes to the British diet in generations. “96% of people in the UK eat bread, 90% of which is white bread, most of which contains soya”, – highlights Professor Julie Lovegrove, who is leading the research programme.

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