The average American’s life expectancy is 78.2 years, but in 2017, more than 70,000 people reached their 100th birthday. What’s the secret of longevity? The answers might be found in Blue Zones.
What Is a Blue Zone?
A Blue Zone is a region of the world where people live the longest, and are the healthiest. The concept grew from demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, who identified Sardinia as the location with the largest population of male centenarians.
Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times bestselling author, expanded on these findings and pinpointed four additional Blue Zones (featured below). His team of researchers also clarified nine traits (called the Power 9®) that play a role in living a long life, like discovering your purpose, moving mindfully, and sipping wine on the daily.
Blue Zone Cities
From Southern California to the islands of Greece, here are the five cities where people live longer than average.
1. Ikaria, Greece
This Aegean island is eight miles off the coast of Turkey and, according to research from the University of Athens, has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia. Many residents follow the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, healthy fats, and low amounts of dairy and meat.
2. Okinawa, Japan
This cluster of islands off the Japanese coast is home to the longest-lived population of women in the world. Diet staples include sweet potatoes, soybeans, turmeric, and goya (bitter melon).
3. Ogliastra Region, Sardinia
The world’s highest concentration of centenarian men live in the mountains of this small Italian island. Locals fill their plates with goat’s milk, sheep cheese, tomatoes, almonds, and veggies like fennel and fava beans.
4. Loma Linda, California
The largest group of Seventh-Day Adventists live in this Southern California region where diet mainstays include grains, fruits, nuts, and veggies. Drinks other than water are taboo, and everyone stays away from sugar, too.
5. Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
After Sardinia, Costa Rica is home to the second highest concentration of male centenarians where engaged social networks, low-intensity exercise, and strong faith communities are cited as some of the keys to living a longer life.
Blue Zones Diet Tips
If your retirement plans don’t involve moving to one of the Blue Zone regions, you can still eat like a local with these tips from Dan Buettner’s book The Blue Zone Solution.
Eat to 80
Percent, that is. To help avoid weight gain, stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full.
Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
Eat plants! Your diet should mainly consist of fruits, vegetables, grains, greens, and beans. Meat and fish aren’t off limits, but enjoy them sparingly.
Red or white?
Moderate alcohol consumption is recommended at the rate of 1 to 2 glasses per day.
Bust out the beans
Beans are a key ingredient in every Blue Zone region. Enjoy them with breakfast, lunch, or dinner for an added dose of protein and fiber.
Longevity Diet Sample Meal Plan
Inspired by Blue Zone diets, here are some healthful recipes to add to your weekly rotation!
Bagua cauda is a flavorful recipe from Piedmont, Italy. Our version of this dish opts for spaghetti made with chickpea flour and a bright sauce of lemon, garlic, capers, and parsley.
This satisfying salad packs a protein punch with rich sardines, and lemon brightens up the tangy vinaigrette.
Here’s a side that’s a bean lover’s dream. Creamy white beans are stirred into a tangle of sautéed zucchini noodles. Garlic, parsley, mint, and olive oil help make every bite extra flavorful.
For an Asian-inspired meal, whip up a layered broth using coconut amino sauce, mirin, shallots, and lots of ginger. Mushrooms add meatiness, and it’s topped with a portion of flaky white fish.
Serve up pasta night straight from the pantry! Gluten-free spaghetti, sardines, artichoke hearts, and a handful or two of fresh, peppery arugula make it a meal.
The simplest of summer meals, the ripe heirloom tomatoes in this recipe explode with sweet flavor. Just enhance them with a simple salad of fresh herbs, shallot, olive oil, and flaky sea salt. No cooking required!
Afternoon cravings? Skip the chips and reach for creamy hummus and veggies. Whip up a batch with garbanzo beans (for protein) and avocado oil (for healthy fat), then purée with silky tahini—you won’t be able to get enough of it!
This soup is as creamy as it gets, but there’s not a drop of cream insight. The secret is a bag of garbanzo beans that get the texture just right while keeping this satisfying soup dairy-free.
Sure, mixed nuts are great right out of the bag, but when you want something a little fancier, try this simple spiced recipe with garlic powder, cayenne, and ginger, plus a touch of brown sugar for sweetness.