The diet of people in the Blue Zones may help them live longer. Here’s what they eat.
If you’re looking for ways to increase the healthfulness of your diet, you may want to take a few cues from people who live in five areas around the world designated as “Blue Zones.” These are places that have been shown to produce the highest number of centenarians (people who live to be 100 or older), as researched by Dan Buettner, an award-winning journalist and best-selling author.
The Blue Zones include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California. Although each of these locations is very different, the people living there share a number of diet similarities, as well as other healthy lifestyle habits. Adopting some of their eating guidelines may help keep you healthier, too.
Blue Zone Eating Principles
Here is an overview of the dietary guidelines of some of the longest-living people on the planet, as determined by surveys completed by people living in the Blue Zones:
- Follow a mostly plant-based diet – Blue Zone centenarians follow a predominantly plant-based diet, eating 95-100% plant-based. They primarily eat a variety of in-season fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and beans.
- Eat animal foods sparingly – When they do eat animal-based foods, such as meat, eggs, fish and dairy, they are used to flavor dishes rather than being the main focus of the meal or are enjoyed as celebratory foods. That’s not to say that eating animal-based foods is bad, but the diets of people in these locations are comprised mostly of fresh, local foods.
- Enjoy beans daily – One of the primary sources of protein in Blue Zone diets is from beans and legumes. They eat at least one-half to one cup each day.
- Consume nuts regularly – Another good source of protein, nuts are a common snack in this diet. They typically eat one to two small handfuls a day.
- Focus on whole foods – Single-ingredient foods in their original form (not highly processed) are the mainstay of this diet. The foods can be raw or cooked but do not come out of a box, bag or can.
- Slash sugar – Daily sugar intake is kept to less than 28 grams per day, which is equivalent to 7 teaspoons of sugar. In contrast, the average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of sugar a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Drink mostly water – Water is the beverage of choice and about 7 glasses or more is typically consumed daily. They may also drink coffee, tea and wine in moderation.
In addition to their diet, other aspects of how people live in the Blue Zones may help increase longevity – in fact, these may be even more important than diet itself. This includes making movement a natural part of the day, having a sense of purpose, connecting with the community, putting family first, being part of social circles that support healthy behaviors, prioritizing stress relief and eating until about 80% full.
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Date Last Reviewed: November 16, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
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