I recently read The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People. I found the information very enlightening and wanted to share some of it with you today.
Through much research, the author, Dan Buettner, has identified five “Blue Zones”, longevity hot spots around the world – or the places where people live the longest without disease. From that research, Buettner and his team determined what these people and cultures are eating, what their lifestyles look like, and how other areas of the world can apply these health and longevity principles to their own lives.
The Five Blue Zones
- Ikaria, Greece
- Okinawa, Japan
- Sardinia, Italy
- Loma Linda, California
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
The Blue Zones Principles
Ikaria, Greece – an island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia.
Key nutrition principles: Lots of veggies, olive oil, small amounts of dairy & meat, moderate amounts of alcohol. Emphasis on potatoes, goat’s milk, honey, legumes (garbanzo beans, black eyed peas, lentils), wild greens, herbs and herbal tea, some fruit (including lemons and lemon juice) and small amounts of fish.
Other lifestyle factors: Eat slowly with family and friends; take frequent naps.
Okinawa, Japan – a large island with the world’s longest-lived women.
Key nutrition principles: Eat something from the land and sea every day. Emphasis on bitter melons, tofu, sweet potatoes, garlic, turmeric, brown rice, green tea, shiitake mushrooms, and seaweeds.
Other lifestyle factors: Stop eating when 80% full. Strong social support system.
Sardinia, Italy – the mountainous highlands of an Italian island that boast the world’s highest concentration of centenarian men.
Key nutrition principles: Plant based, meat on special occasion (sheep, pigs, chicken). Emphasis on complex carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes and beans; goat’s milk or sheep cheese, olive oil; vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, zucchini, and cabbage and two fruits: pears and cherries. Also, chickpeas, barley, and almonds.
Other lifestyle factors: Daily life is not sedentary – living off the land including farming, walking up and down the mountainside, gardening, washing clothes in the river, baking bread, etc. The older people continue to contribute to society.
Loma Linda, California – a community with the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the U.S., where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
Key nutrition principles: Follow a biblical diet of grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables. Emphasis on beans, raw and cooked vegetables such as asparagus, cabbage and broccoli; nuts, dates, avocados; salmon. Includes small amounts of meat, dairy and eggs. Discourages coffee and alcohol.
Other lifestyle factors: Reserve Saturdays for quiet contemplation or attending church; spend time with family and friends going on nature walks.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica – world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
Key nutrition principles: Mostly plant based diet with emphasis on rice, maize, beans, squash, papaya, yams, bananas, guava, etc.
Other lifestyle factors: Strong faith community, strong social networks, regular low-intensity physical activity.
There are several key takeaways from this book and research. For me, I started to think about incorporating more plants, particularly beans, into my diet. Also note that carbs are not the enemy! The majority of these diets described above are mostly comprised of carbohydrates. It is the quality of carbohydrates that make a big difference. Also, leading an active lifestyle to use the energy from the foods consumed. Finally, having a strong social network and support system appears to be a key item in these healthy locations and cultures. Find your tribe!
Interesting note: Several of the Blue Zones over the years have become more commercialized including fast food, convenience foods, etc., which has now caused an increase in disease that is more typical to what we see throughout most of the United States.
There is much more information in this book, such as what happened when they tried to incorporate the Blue Zones principles into other American cities. The book also includes recipes from the different Blue Zones, checklists for preparing your kitchen and home to promote healthier habits, and strategies for applying the Blue Zones lessons to your city and life.
I hope you find this information interesting and will check out this book and the others – The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest and Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. For more information, visit The Blue Zones website. Happy reading!
What do you think of the way these cultures eat and live? Is it realistic for most Americans to incorporate some or all of these principles?