There are five geographical spaces in our world where people live the longest, reaching 100 at astonishing rates. Often called the Blue Zones, these areas have long been known for their extraordinary life expectancy, low middle age mortality, and lower prevalence of common afflictions such as heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. In short, people in Blue Zones live long, healthy, happy lives.
What is their secret? How can we pursue a long and happy life?
While geographically disperse, several common factors have been associated with these zones. They may guide us into pursuing a healthier, better lifestyle.
Blue-zone diets are mostly plant-based and characterized by a moderate caloric intake. People in these areas often eat beans, rarely eat meat, and regularly and moderately drink alcohol (wine). These are the most common foods in each of the five regions:
- Ikaria, Greece: potatoes, goat’s milk, feta cheese, herbs (sage and marjoram), honey, vegetables, garbanzo beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, fruits, and small amounts of fish.
- Sardinia: goat’s milk and sheep’s cheese, fennel, fava beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, almonds, and milk thistle tea.
- Okinawa, Japan: tofu, garlic, brown rice, green tea, shitake mushrooms, bitter melons. The Okinawan mantra is “hara hachi bu”, a reminder to stop eating once you are 80 percent full.
- Loma Linda, California: these seventh day Adventist follow a diet focused on vegetables, grains, fruits, and nuts. Salmon, avocados, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, soy milk, and oatmeal are common foods.
- Nicoya, Costa Rica: Beans, corn and squash, papayas, yams, bananas and peach palms.
But living like the world’s healthiest people goes beyond food.
- People in blue zones perform daily moderate physical activity incorporated naturally into their lifestyles and environment. They include moderate walks, gardening, and other outdoor activities.
- Purpose: it is important to have a sense of meaning behind what we do and why we exist.
- Low-stress: Our fast paced, stressful lives may be more damaging than we think. Major diseases are linked to stress, which is why it is important to find ways to release negative energies and focus on our minds.
- Community: social engagement through significant family and community connections is essential to our health and wellbeing. Foster strong bonds, dedicate time to friends and family.