Longevity expert Dan Buettner has traveled the world in search of the secrets to longer life and now he's taking what he's learned and has a challenge for Americans. And it all starts with breakfast.
Starting Tuesday, Buettner, author of the New York Times best-seller "The Blue Zones," is asking Americans to take part in the Six Weeks to Longevity challenge.
The challenge is an at-home version of a massive project Buettner and Blue Zones started with the AARP and United Health Foundation to radically redesign, reorganize and reprioitize the town of Albert Lea, Minn., in an effort to encourage the town's residents to live healthier.
Called the Vitality Project, the initiative put in more sidewalks, encouraged work and school redesigns and taught residents how to live healthier in their own homes in hopes of adding around two years to each participants' life.
On the AARP Web site, interested participants can learn how they can make small changes in their homes and lifestyle that can have a big impact on the rest of their lives.
But for those who want a head start today, Buettner showed "Good Morning America" what you can do for breakfast each morning to start the day healthier and the snacks you should have on hand to stay that way all day long.
Breakfast for a Longer Life
Cobbled from his travels around the world, Buettner came back with a list of some of the best food and drinks for longer life.
What to Drink
One lesson Buettner learned in Costa Rica is that coffee is a good choice for breakfast because it wakes you up, makes you more alert and function better in the morning. The optimal amount is half a cup, he said, as too much can work as a diarrhetic.
Green tea, which is drunk in Okinawa, Japan, has been found to stave off dementia, Buettner said. A cup at breakfast, another in mid-morning and in the afternoon is best, he said.
Third, goat's milk, is a tip he got from the residents of Sardinia. It's more easily digestible than other milk, he said.
To get your antioxidants, Buettner recommends pomegranate juice and dark grape juice.
What to Eat
One of Buettner's favorite healthy dishes, he said, is scrambled tofu with onion and peppers. Tofu is a "perfect, complete" protein, he said and contains vital estrogens that lower breast cancer rates and makes skin look better.
To make it, simply chop tofu finely and scramble with onions and peppers. It tastes like eggs, he said, with none of the fat.
Another breakfast idea from Costa Rica is a corn tortilla with beans and squash. Black beans are a great source of protein, Buettner said, and the corn tortilla gives you grain. Most Costa Ricans eat it with squash.
"It's a low-fat, high-protein meal," Buettner said.
Finally, oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, particularly raisins is a great breakfast, Buettner said.
If you don't have time for a full meal for breakfast, Buettner also has two quick meal ideas: sprouted wheat bread with apple butter or a Blue Zones smoothie.
To make a Blue Zones smoothie, mix soy milk, frozen blueberries, Greek honey and more than a dash of cinnamon. The Greek honey is great for its antibacterial properties and the cinnamon lowers blood sugar, Buettner said.
Healthy Snacks During the Day
Some foods should be staples in every kitchen, Buettner said, and some Americans need to avoid.
American families should have nuts, beans, whole grain breads and sweet potatoes in the pantry, Buettner said. People should snack on the nuts four times a week.
The beans are cheap, high in protein, low in fat and rich in vitamins, Buettner said. The whole grains are good for digestion.
The sweet potatoes, which may come as a surprise healthy food to some, is good because they are high in cancer-fighting carotene, they can stay for weeks in the cupboard, are inexpensive and taste good, he said.
Among the foods to avoid, Buettner said to say good bye to salty snacks, soft drinks, processed meats, packaged sweets and desserts.
Not having them in the house at all is the best way to curb consumption, Buettner said.
"If you have to open a cellophane bag to eat them, they can't be good," Buettner said.
Soft drinks are among the sneakiest diet dangers because they are "the most insidious way to deliver sugar," Buettner said. Even diet sodas are bad for the bones over time, he said.