A long-cherished dream of humanity has always been to live a long and healthy life, free from the torments of any illnesses. Did you know that this seemingly impossible dream has already been accomplished by a large proportion of the people who live in the blue zones?
The people who live in blue zones don’t usually develop any chronic diseases and often live till 100 years or more! Isn’t it fascinating? When more than half of the human population is trying hard to prevent lifestyle diseases, there is a section of us who have aced their lifestyle choices!
Let’s have a look into the dietary practices of the people of the blue zones that helps them to live longer.
- What Is A Blue Zone?
- Specialties Of Blue Zones Longevity Diets
- Blue Zones Longevity Diets: Final Thoughts
What Is A Blue Zone?
Dan Buettner, a world-renowned longevity expert, and National Geographic fellow conducted a study in 2004 to identify all the regions of the world where the lifespan of people was the longest and healthiest. Buettner and his colleagues found five such places and called them blue zones.
It was observed that a significant proportion of people in all these five blue zones reached the age of 100 with very low instances of chronic diseases.
The five blue zones identified by Beutter are as follows:
- Okinawa (Japan)
- Icaria (Greece)
- Sardinia (Italy)
- The Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda (California, USA)
- Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica)
Specialties Of Blue Zones Longevity Diets
Beutter observed that the secret behind the healthy and long lives of the people of the blue zones lies in their healthy diet. They are known to consume locally produced, organic, and pesticide-free vegetables and fruits. They cook their food with the help of traditional recipes and stay away from processed foods.
Though the food preferences of each culture of these five blue zones vary, their primary focus on consuming healthy food remains the same.
Buettner and his colleagues studied over 150 studies on dietary research that were done in the past 100 years on the food habits of the people in blue zones and tried to conclude what the centenarians of blue zones preferred to eat.
The following are the key aspects of the longevity diets followed by the people of blue zones.
Plenty Of Plant-Based Foods
Almost 95-100 percent of the foods consumed by the people of blue zones are heavily dependent on plants. From garden-fresh vegetables to oils extracted from plants, the list goes on.
Leafy greens like kale, turnips, collards, and spinach are a must for the blue zone longevity diet along with seasonal vegetables and fruits. Olive oil, the commonly used oil variety in blue zones is also plant based.
If you want to increase your vegetable and fruit consumption, make it a point to stock your favorite veggies and fruits that are available in the season.
If you loathe eating vegetables, consume them in other forms, like making a delicious vegetable soup!
Consumption Of Beans Daily
High in fiber content, beans have been consumed by the human population for at least 8,000 years now. People who lived the longest lives in the blue zone regions consumed up to a cup of beans on any given day.
The people of all the five blue zones have made beans an important part of their daily diet. Okinawans consume soybeans, Nicoyana have black beans, and white beans and lentils are essential to the Mediterranean diet.
If you are someone who detests beans but wants to try the blue zones longevity diet, find out ways to make your beans tastier. For instance, you can add cooked beans to your daily salads and soups.
Limited Sugar Intake
You can’t completely cut off sugar from your diet as it is a natural ingredient in fruits and vegetables. But you can limit its intake by consciously switching to healthier options like honey, which is used as a sweetener in the blue zones longevity diet.
Make it a point to avoid foods that contain sugar in large amounts. Beutter observes that the centenarians of the blue zone regions limit their sweet intake to celebratory events, and consume honey as a replacement for sugar in their teas. The sugar intake in a blue zone diet adds up to a meager seven teaspoons per day.
Daily Dose Of Nuts
The blue zone diet includes at least two handfuls of daily nuts intake. As per the results of a recent study conducted by Harvard, the mortality rate of nut eaters is 20% lower than the mortality rate of non-nut-eaters.
The centenarians of all the five blue zones intake nuts such as almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, etc, daily. Consumption of these nuts helps to reduce one’s cholesterol levels too.
From now on, instead of munching on a cookie, try snacking on nuts and watch your cholesterol levels drop as time goes by.
Occasional Consumption Of Eggs
Blue zone diets of all the five regions comprise egg as an essential part. But eggs aren’t consumed daily but on an average of two to four times every week. Eggs aren’t consumed as the main dish but only as a side item in the blue zones diets.
Eggs consumed by the people in the blue zones aren’t factory produced, but come from chickens that eat natural feed and roam freely, and are free from hormones or antibiotics. Keep this in mind before you start consuming eggs frequently.
Reduced Dairy Intake
Though Americans have relied on dairy as a source of protein and calcium intake for years, the blue zone diet doesn’t have cow’s milk as an essential ingredient.
The blue zones diet mainly gets its nutrients from plant-based sources such as soy, tofu, or kale. Though cow’s milk isn’t a necessary part of the blue zones diet, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk are consumed weekly.
If you wish to follow the blue zones longevity diet, it's best to forsake milk products like cheese, butter, and cream for good.
Instead of consuming cow’s milk, consider the alternatives soy, coconut, and almond milk.
Low Intake Of Meat
There is no daily consumption of meat in the blue zones diet. The people in the blue zones consume very small quantities of meat, around two ounces or less at a given time. They traditionally consume meat only during special occasions. Also, note that the meat in the blue zones longevity diet doesn’t include beef and turkey.
Keep in mind that the meat consumed in the blue zones diet comes from free-ranging animals and not hormones or antibiotic-induced breeds. Avoid processed meat like sausages and hot dogs at once if you wish to follow the blue zones’ dietary practices.
Include Fish In The Diet
There is no doubt about the benefits that fish offer. This rich source of omega-3 fatty acids helps in brain health and in ensuring good heart health. As per the blue zones’ longevity diets, it’s best to consume up to three ounces of fish in your daily dietary intake.
Fish is an essential part of the blue zones diet, and small fish like sardines and anchovies are mostly eaten. Small fish won’t be exposed to high levels of mercury and other chemicals like bigger fish.
Consumption Of Whole Foods
Whole foods refer to foods that are made from a single constituent. People in the blue zones don’t consume foods that are highly processed. The blue zones' diets are so rich in natural nutrients that they needn’t take any vitamin supplements.
The people in the blue zones don’t like to complicate their recipes and believe in the simple preparation of their meals. Often, vegetables and fruits are consumed in the raw state itself.
Water Over Other Drinks
Consumption of carbonated drinks and soft drinks is a big no-no in the blue zones longevity diet. People in the blue zones prefer to have water over any other drink. The people in the blue zones also consume drinks like coffee, tea, and red wine for the benefits they offer.
For example, research suggests that coffee intake would help to lower the chances of dementia. Green tea is a preferred drink of Okinawans of Japan as it is associated with mitigating the risks of cancer and heart diseases. Likewise, the people of Icaria prefer to have teas made with herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Blue Zones Longevity Diets: Final Thoughts
The people living in the blue zones are known to have the longest lifespans and the healthiest lifestyles. A good diet combined with exercise could help you achieve the same. Eating a majorly plant-based diet and avoiding the intake of processed food items is one of the most important aspects of blue zones' longevity diets.