Eating in the Blue Zone

You may have heard of “Blue Zones”, a term coined by author Dan Buettner to refer to five regions of the world where people live much longer and reach the age of 100 at a rate 10 times greater than the average American.  These areas have been studied and determined to have 9 common lifestyle factors that lead to their longevity:  staying active, living with purpose, downshifting and destressing, belong to a faith-based community, putting family first, having positive social circles, eating mostly plant-based, following the 80% rule of stopping eating when they are 80% full, and drinking alcohol moderately and regularly, especially red wine.  The Blue Zones are Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece.

Of the 9 lifestyle factors mentioned above, 3 of them relate to diet.  Those who live in the Blue Zones eat diets that are around 95% plant-based.  Although there are some cultural and local variations in foods that are grown and preferred, they all follow similar patterns:

  • Vegetables and fruits – 5 to 10 servings per day
  • Beans, legumes and pulses – one cup of cooked beans or pulses every day.  Chickpeas, lentils, and green beans are included in this category
  • Nuts and seeds – one handful a day
  • 100% whole grains – including farro, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, bulgur, and cornmeal
  • One or two glasses of red wine per day
  • Some regions consume more fish than others; those who eat meat do so in small quantities and on average no more than 5 times per month

What is also common in the Blue Zones is that the residents do not eat processed foods, junk foods, or sugar sweetened beverages.

A Danish twin study on longevity published in 1996 established that how long you live is only about 20% dependent on your genes, and the remaining 80% is dictated by your lifestyle.  A you choose what foods to grow, buy and cook, establish your own Blue Zone that focuses on plant-based foods and a lifestyle that will help you live longer and healthier.

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