• Icaria, Greece.
• Loma Linda, California.
• Sardinia, Italy.
• Okinawa, Japan.
• Nicoya, Costa Rica.
What do these 5 places in the World have in common? At first glance you’d think probably not very much… But these certain parts of the world have an unusually high number of people who have lived and are living to 90 and 100 plus years of age. In these longevity hot spots, people are not only living to 100 but they suffer only a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the world. Age related diseases seem to bypass these countries/towns all together.
In a study later named ‘The blue zones’, Dan Buettner from national geographic together with a team of demographers, medical scientists and journalists interviewed some of the world’s longest-living people in these places to find out what the secret was. What foods do they eat, how active are they, how much do they socialize, what types of medicines do they use, how do they live, where do they live, and more. These findings were then studied and compared to identify the common practices and denominators found in the Blue Zones around the World.
What the research has confirmed is that all of these known blue zones have more than just their number of healthy, long-living people in common. The people who inhabit these places all share very specific cultural, dietary/nutrition, and lifestyle traits despite the massive distance of their geographical separation.
Common characteristics of the people who live in blue zones:
• Eating less overall (particularly as compared to their Western counterparts)
• Eating food in its most natural state- There is almost no consumption of processed foods.
• They follow a largely plant-forward nutrient dense diet. Full of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, beans, lots of healthy fats and eat very little meat and dairy. 1 in 3 Ikarians in Greece live well into their 90s, free of dementia and chronic disease they say this is down to the quality and quantity of olive oil consumption!
• Staying active throughout life- In some places it’s not uncommon to be walking 5 miles a day.
• Day to day tasks are physical and keep them agile- They walk to there market, they knead there bread, pick there veggies, garden etc. Low density, stress free physical movement every day.
• Having a positive attitude about aging
• Having a sense of belonging and purpose. When they reach the ripe old age of 80 there not put in a nursing home there bought into the family home, they help with kids, chores, cooking etc. They feel mentally, spiritually and emotionally fulfilled.
• They live in strong tight knit communities with deep social networks and enjoy shared principles and beliefs.
• They meditate- Carving time out for themselves is a true self acre practice that I think a lot of the rest of the world has lost touch with.
• They drink small moderate amounts of organin/biodynamic red wine!
Some of the common dietary factors in the blue zones are:
Vegetables- They’re a great source of fibre and many different vitamins and minerals. Eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and death
Legumes- Legumes include beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, and they are all rich in fibre and protein. A number of studies have shown that eating legumes is associated with lower mortality. In other parts of the world people tend to avoid them unless veggie or vegan.
Whole grains- Whole grains are also rich in fibre. A high intake of whole grains can reduce blood pressure and is associated with reduced colorectal cancer and death from heart disease.
Nuts and seeds- These are great sources of fibre, protein and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Combined with a healthy diet, they’re associated with reduced mortality and may even help reverse metabolic syndrome.
Fatty fish- A vital source of omega 3’s essential for overall health.
What I find so interesting about the blue zones is that none of these common denominators are out of reach from the rest of the World. They do require a new approach to life but it’s certainly achievable to implement some of them into our own lifestyles…