blue zone diet

Longevity lifestyles, and the Blue Zone diet

Some time ago demographers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain were conducting a study regarding longevity in Italy, they noticed that there was an area in Sardinia that had an unusual amount of male centenarians. The scientists circled this area with a blue highlighter, and the term ‘Blue Zone’ was born.

But what exactly is a ‘blue zone?’  

Author Dan Buettner broke down what makes the “Blue Zones” special in his book of the same name.

A blue zone is a place where people live longer, healthier lives. The differences aren’t only in length of life, but also of quality of life and an avoidance of disease.  Since the study of Italian demographics author Dan Buettner identified other “blue zones” around the world.

These areas of unusual longevity and health include: Sardinia, Italy; Icaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California and Nicoya, Costa Rica.  There is also a region in China called Bama Yao that was not featured in Mr. Buettner’s book, but displays the qualifying factors to be called a ‘blue zone.’ 

Since the identification of these areas many doctors, scientists and nutritionists have sought to identify exactly what makes a blue zone, a blue zone. It turns out there are numerous factors that all blue zones have in common that contribute to the relative longevity found in the areas.

The most obvious factor, and often the first one studied, is diet.

The Blue Zone Diet

The standard blue zone diet is based around vegetables and whole foods. The people of the ‘blue zones’ also tend to eat eat fewer calories, and animal proteins/fats and dairy than the ‘average’ American diet.  For the mediterranean blue zone diet, foods like olive oil and yogurt are staples.  In Japan, the Okinawan people consume much less rice compared to the rest of Japan – often replacing that particular Japanese staple with sweet potatoes.

The makings of a “Blue Zone” diet.

People in the ‘blue zones’ tend to eat fish regularly, and red meats sparingly.  The people of Loma Linda base their diet on the bible – which means it is simple and vegetable/grains oriented. Feta and sheep’s cheese are a regular part of the diet in Icaria.  All of the blue zones consume beans and other legumes regularly. Surprisingly – with the exception of Loma Linda, nearly all of the ‘blue zones’ also consume alcohol regularly, but in small amounts. Wine is the beverage du jour for most of the blue zoners – like the Grenache wine made in Sardinia.

In Bama Yao, China many of the residents get plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from hemp seeds.  Hemp seed is a dietary staple of the people of Bama Yao, and is consumed on nearly a daily basis.

Healthy fats are ubiquitous among the ‘blue zones.’  These fats come from olive oil in Icaria and Sardinia.  The residents of Loma Linda eat nuts regularly, utilizing the beneficial fats that are found in them.

So far we have identified a few things these areas have in common with regards to diet.  They eat lots of vegetables and healthy fats.  They eat potatoes and legumes.  Many ‘blue zoner’s’ drink wine everyday. There is, however, a lot more than healthy fats and plenty of vegetables in making

Comparing the “Blue Zones”

 it past 100 years old.  

The Blue Zone Lifestyle

The people of the so-called ‘blue zones’ share other aspects of lifestyle. One of which is daily moderate exercise, continuing well into the older ages.  This approach to physical activity exists in all of the ‘blue zones.’  Many of the cultures also have a close connection with nature and often garden.

Besides staying active, the residents of blue zones place a high value on family and have active social lives.  Spending time with friends everyday seems to be a key factor of healthy aging. Faith and spirituality also plays a part in some of the ‘blue zones’ lifestyles.

Another common factor is a focus on purpose in their lives which they pursue everyday. Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning could add to the number of mornings you get out of bed.

So if you want a long and happy life, take a close look at your diet.  Check your purpose. Call your friends and family.  Go outside and get some exercise (everyday) – and you just might make it into triple digits.

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