How would you like to live past 100?
For people living in blue zones, this isn’t a hypothetical question, it’s nearly a genetic fact. Blue zones are regions of the world where people live significantly longer, healthier lives compared to the rest of the population.
These regions were identified by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow, who studied areas with high concentrations of centenarians and identified commonalities in lifestyle, diet, and social engagement.
Some of the blue zones include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and even here in the United States, in a quaint seaside town called Loma Linda, California.
Studies of these regions have identified lifestyle factors such as plant-based diets, regular physical activity, strong social connections, and purposeful living as key contributors to longevity and good health.
In this blog, we’re going to travel to the blue zones and see what [WORD] we can adopt in our own lives.
The blue zone diet.
While it’s easy to assume that the “blue zone diet” is simply a variation of the Mediterranean diet, the truth is that centenarians from these regions are doing much more than just following a prescribed eating plan.
Given that food is the literal fuel that sustains us, it’s no surprise that what they eat plays a crucial role in their longevity. In fact, their diet is at the very core of their lifestyle, serving as the cornerstone for all their other habits.
So what is it about their diet that makes it so special?
Local and in-season: In some of these remote places, eating local, organically grown produce isn’t a fad. It isn’t something that they aspire to do, they just–well, do it. The majority of these populations not only eat local and in season meats and produce, they actually most of their own food!
Gardening for the win! But why is eating local produce better for us? Let’s break it down.
Nutritional powerbombs: When you eat local, the food is allowed to ripen to peak freshness on the vine as it doesn’t have to be transported very far. The longer produce is allowed to stay on the vine, the better the nutritional content and flavors.
Fruit and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients as soon as 24 hours after being picked.
No chemicals: Did you know that local transport also means no chemicals? The short distances that produce has to travel before it reaches the market eliminates the need for chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that are typically used in conventional farming methods.
Why didn’t we focus on the Mediterranean diet aspect of their eating habits? Well, because it isn’t so much about what they eat, but how they eat it and when. For example, you can buy the Mediterranean diet books, make the recipes, but if what you’re cooking isn’t in season, are you getting the full nutritional benefits of those foods?
Sure, you’ll be healthier, especially if you are switching from a highly processed diet, but if you want the full range of benefits, the blue zone diet points more to the farming practices than a prescribed diet.
An active lifestyle.
A major factor contributing to the lasting longevity of blue zone populations is their active lifestyle. We’re not just talking about the occasional run followed by hours of sedentary activity.
We’re referring to a consistently active way of life, where gardening is as rewarding as it is relaxing, and where walking to the local market or town square is a way of life. In these communities, house chores are never truly finished, and cooking is not seen as a luxury but as a fundamental part of daily life.
While some of the individuals in these communities may have gym memberships and hit the weights regularly, the majority of their time is spent on their feet, in constant motion. They’re not the kind of people who spend hours glued to the T.V. or scrolling through TikTok. In fact, being confined to a desk for more than five hours straight would likely feel like being locked up in a prison cell to them.
A strong sense of community.
A blog covering the blue zone wouldn’t be complete without stressing the importance of their community and social circles.
People in these communities value spending time together and supporting each other. Towns and villages in blue zone areas are often designed to make it easy for people to socialize and form close connections with each other.
In addition to spending time together in person, many blue zone communities have a tradition of socializing over food and drink.
This sense of community is believed to be a key factor in the longevity of blue zone populations. Strong social connections can provide a range of benefits, including lower stress levels, better immune function, and improved mental health. So, if you’re looking to live a long and healthy life, it might be worth prioritizing your social connections and spending time with those who matter most to you.
How to infuse the blue zone lifestyle into your life.
Living the blue zone lifestyle doesn’t have to mean giant overhauls and impossible habit changes. By making these small changes over time, you’ll be on your way to a happier and (much) healthier version of yourself.
Eat a plant-based diet: Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and limit your intake of meat and processed foods.
Stay active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, and look for opportunities to move more throughout your day.
Find ways to de-stress: Whether it’s meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature, find ways to reduce stress and cultivate a sense of calm in your life.
Prioritize social connections: Make time for friends and family, and seek out opportunities to connect with others in your community.
Embrace a sense of purpose: Find meaning in your work, hobbies, and relationships, and seek out opportunities to give back to others.
Consider your environment: Look for ways to create a healthy, supportive environment in your home and community, whether it’s through creating a garden, joining a community organization, or advocating for positive change.
If you want to take this a step further, rather than just eliminating processed food and limiting your meat intake, figure out which foods may be causing inflammation in your body by having a food sensitivity test done.
Food sensitivity testing can also help you optimize your nutrition by finally giving you the answers you need about the optimal foods for your unique body. Don’t let food sensitivities hold you back. Check out our Bloodprint panels for more information.