Fancy the idea of living to 100? Who better to ask for health tips and tricks than the longest living people in the world. These people live in what are known as the “Blue Zones”. First discovered by Dan Buettner, a New York Times bestselling author, the Blue Zones are five regions of the globe; Ikaria (Greece), Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica) and Loma Linda (California), which have the highest concentration of centenarians on the planet that are predominantly free of chronic diseases like obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The diet and lifestyle of the people who live in these isolated areas hark back to an era before the internet, social media, fast food and stress inducing 9 to 5’s. So, if you’re keen to see your 100th birthday, read on and I’ll let you in on the secrets to the Blue Zones.
1. Minimise Meat
They keep their diet simple, eat predominantly plant based foods and eat seasonally. Their diet focuses on a high intake of beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, olive oil and fermented foods. When meat is on the menu, red meat is limited and seafood is the order of the day.
2. Cut the Portions
One big commonality between people in the Blue Zones is that they all eat smaller meals, with the smallest being consumed in the evening. They also only eat until they are 80% full, not full enough to appear four months pregnant with a food baby.
3. Enjoy Simple Pleasures
According the Ikaria Model, we should all be having more sex, drinking wine and napping a lot. I’m sure I don’t need to convince anyone on this one, but napping can reduce your risk of heart disease, having regular sex can decrease your rate of mortality and drinking wine in moderation with dinner can increase flavonoid absorption and lower the level of the stress hormone, cortisol. Sign me up!
4. Live with Purpose
Work to live, don’t live to work. Blue Zone communities find a purpose in life and make that the reason they get up in the morning.
5. Move your body
By this, I don’t mean they spend hours on a treadmill running to the sounds of EDM. No, I mean they unconsciously move their bodies more throughout the day to perform simple tasks. For instance, they spend time tending to the garden, cleaning their houses with only hand tools and walking to and from the store.
6. Stay Connected (without your phone)
This one is key. With social media evoking a connected disconnectedness in the western world, many of us have forgotten how to connect to people IRL. The Blue Zones all value a strong sense of community where people usually get together in the evening with friends, family and neighbours to eat, dance, talk and play games. Belonging to a community can also increase your life expectancy. In Okinawa, those who are connected outlive those who are lonely by eight years!
7. Focus on Family
Family and friends are valued above all else. Children are raised by the community and the elderly are taken care of by their family members to ensure they remain a pivotal, active presence in the family, well into old age.
The takeaway message here is that there isn’t just one thing that can help us to live long, healthy and happy lives. When combined, a healthy diet, healthy habits, strong community values and a focus on family are the ultimate keys to longevity.