There are 5 zones on planet earth that have a higher number of centenarians than anywhere else in the world. What’s also interesting to note is that not only do they live longer they also live healthier lives with very low incidence of heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes and dementia.
The 5 Blue Zones
- Nuoro & Ogliastra in Sardinia, Italy (Most male centenarians in the world)
- Ikaria Island, Greece nicknamed “The island where people forget to die”
- Okinawa, Japan, World’s longest living women and 15% of the worlds Super Centenarians (110+)
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica (100,000 Mestizo’s with lower than normal middle age rate of mortality)
- Loma Linda, California (Life expectancy exceeding the American average by 10 years)
So, there is obviously something different about these populations to the rest of western society where obesity, inactivity and chronic disease are prevalent and increasing! What is it that they are doing different to the rest of us?
People living long and full lives in the blue zones are active on a continuous basis. They move a lot despite their old age. On a daily basis these people are physically active by gently walking and gardening. They also engage in more strenuous activities like farming and harvesting to help their family and extended communities. They may slow down as they age but they don’t stop! The word retirement doesn’t exist in the Okinawan dialect in Japan!
Stress + Rest = Growth
People living to beyond 100 years of age in the Blue Zones insist on taking time out to relax and power nap when needs be. As a result, they have low stress levels despite been continuously active while working physically demanding roles. Like many successful people around the planet they have their work life balance in check. They appreciate both work and rest equally and as a result can keep going.
Family & Social Connections
Another trend noticed among the 5 zones is that they value their families and also their extended social connections across their communities. This is already illustrated by these centenarians helping their neighbours during harvest time. The sense of community leads to a sense of pride and belonging.
Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince, Dinner like a Pauper
While accounting for geographical variance in food sources the general themes of the blue zone diets are consistent. These centenarians start their day with a large breakfast, followed by a good lunch and a small early dinner to facilitate sleep. Their diets are high in vegetables, legumes and beans and often have a higher carbohydrate with moderate to low levels of protein and fat. Meat is rarely consumed (5 times a month). The main thing is that their food is sourced locally and is fresh!
But they are different from each other also
Let’s look closer at the difference in the diets even if they all generally appreciate that you should fuel to move and recover while sleeping!
Sardinia & Ikaria have a Mediterranean diet which is high in fresh fish, wild bitter greens like dandelions and grape leaves, legumes like garbanzo beans and potatoes. There are no fancy sauces used with fish just herbs like thyme, dill, sage and marjoram. The occasional small piece of feta or pecorino cheese on the side helps with their protein and fat intake. Of course the healthy fats found in olive oils are consumed on a daily basis.
The Okinawan people consume different foods but again source fresh local foods to sustain their long healthy lives. Bright purple sweet potato, various seaweeds, vegetables and bitter fruits are to the forefront. Tofu & Natto (fermented soy beans) help increase protein intake. Like the Mediterranean diet, the Okinawan people eat significant amounts of fresh fish. Brown rice, green tea, shiitake mushrooms, ginger and garlic act as other mainstays in these centenarian’s diets. Unlike many living in western society, the Okinawan people almost eat no meat, eggs or dairy.
For those living long and fulfilled lives on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, a locally sourced fresh diet consisting of beans, corn and squash is key. Homemade corn tortillas accompany most meals and they hold black beans, rice, yams and eggs. Fruits such as mango, passion fruit, guava, papaya and peach palms provide a whole host of vitamins as well as fluids required for hydration. Once again, fresh fish is regularly consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet. Like in Sardinia and Ikaria, the Mestizos love their daily coffee to start their day! That’s real coffee not your fancy high street calorie laden concoction!
Finally, somewhat different to the previous examples, the 7th Day Adventists of Loma Linda in California, have broken away from mainstream society in many ways and are living longer as a result. This Protestant Christian denomination promotes a balanced vegetarian diet high in legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Their preferred foods are avocados, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and soy milk. They only drink water and avoid all sugars bar those naturally accruing in honey. As a result, these Americans have the lowest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the USA and by default have a very low rate of obesity.
So here it is, the Blue Zone Centenarians secret!
In summary, what separates those living beyond 100 in the 5 blue zones is that they are physically active every day but also know when to rest. They minimise stress despite working hard. They eat a healthy balanced diet that is locally sourced and fresh thus avoiding processed foods. They all have a sense of community and help each other out and, in doing so, build long lasting bonds which have been shown to improve our health.
Doesn’t this sound like rural Ireland not that long ago? A healthy active country where you helped out your neighbour!
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Thanks for reading and I hope you have a healthy day.
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