"Blue Zones" describe several areas across the world where people tend to live significantly longer than the average global life span, with high rates of nonagenarians and centenarians (who live until their 90's and 100's, respectively). Oddly enough, these people may not be particularly lucky genetically. In fact, the most significant explanation why individuals in these areas tend to live longer is their lifestyles. Some of the most prominent Blue Zones include Icaria, an island in Greece; the Ogliastra region of Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.
So, what's the secret to living a long life? In turns out that even if you don't live in a Blue Zone, you may be well on your way to increased longevity by following some smart eating principles that those in Blue Zones use.
There are some clear patterns between the eating and culinary styles of individuals living in Blue Zones that may be important contributors to the fact that in these areas ten times more people exceed 100 years of age than in the United States.
1. 95% plant-based diet
Blue Zone residents eat meat, on average, only five times per month. This has been shown to minimize the risk of cancer and heart disease. What's more, the benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables include an abundance of vitamins and minerals that fuel bodily functions such as the sustaining of your immune system and healing of wounds, among hundreds of others.
2. Hunger reduction
People living in Blue Zones tend to eat a high amount of legumes, nuts, and whole grains, all of which are rich in fiber. Fiber keeps us full for longer, so reduces cravings to consume additional calories, sugars, and fats. Another easy way to reduce hunger is to eat slowly, because it allows our body to digest the food over a longer period of time and keeps signals that our stomachs are empty at bay.
3. The 80% rule
Many citizens of the Blue Zone of Okinawa, Japan follow "hara hachi bu," a rule in which they stop eating when they feel 80% full rather than 100% full. They believe that the reduced calorie consumption prevents weight gain and chronic disease, both of which often decrease longevity.
4. Intermittent fasting
Studies have proven fasting to be an effective means of lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of chronic disease. The most common fasting schedules are blocking off a few hours per day or one or two days per week in which you don't eat. While some people additionally abstain from drinking water during this no-food period, it may be healthier to regularly drink water as it maintains the balance of bodily fluids, energizes muscles, and helps your kidneys and bowels function.
5. Opt for red wine
When selecting alcohol to drink, red wine may be the best choice in terms of longevity. The antioxidants from red grapes prevent the DNA damage that can accelerate aging. Additionally, studies show that those who drink five ounces of red wine per day for at least six months have lower blood sugar and blood pressure, and better cholesterol levels.
6. Breakfast is crucial
Research shows that consuming more calories earlier in the day and less later on can reduce the risk of heart disease and can be beneficial to weight loss efforts. Would you like some recipe help? Below is a link to 10 popular breakfast recipes in Blue Zones that are part of the key to unlocking the increased longevity they have discovered. I also recommend exploring the website, beyond the page I have linked, as it goes in greater depth as to the culinary and lifestyle secrets that have helped to give rise to these Blue Zones where the life expectancy is so much higher than the global average.
A high schooler with a love of food. See the My Story page to find out more.