Blue Zones Lifestyle & Eating for Longevity
The typical American lifestyle and SAD (Standard American Diet - which includes a regular intake of highly refined, high sugar and high fat processed foods, little to no physical activity, and excess alcohol, or cigarette use) is contributing to an epidemic in obesity, and a generation whose lifespan, for the first time in history, is decreasing instead of increasing.
Yet, there are pockets of populations in the world (and even in the US) where it is more common to see people live to over 100 years old. Dan Buettner, author of the best-selling diet and lifestyle book, “The Blue Zones”, decided to look at those populations and analyzed over 150 dietary surveys from areas in the world with the longest lived people and found similarities in behavior and lifestyle patterns between them. His book, “The Blue Zones” serves as a comprehensive guide to diet and lifestyle for enhancing longevity AND quality of life!
What are Blue Zones?
Blue Zones are areas of the globe where researchers have discovered the longest-living people on earth. They include:
- Sardinia, Italy;
- Ikaria, Greece;
- Okinawa, Japan;
- Nikoya, Costa Rica; and
- Loma Linda, California (home to the religious group, the Seventh-day Adventists.)
What can be learned from their lifestyle habits?
People living in Blue Zones not only live longer, they live better. In other words, they add years to their life and life to their years. They have lower levels of chronic disease including cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia and cancers. Buttner found that environment is key to success – whether it be the neighborhood you live in with access to walking or biking paths, for example, or your home environment – keeping only healthy foods on hand and readily available – he found that planning and being conscious about your environment is key to and supports healthy lifestyle.
Blue Zones cultures, rather than living ‘life on the run,’ with high stress jobs and little rest or relaxation, value time spent with family, happiness, and personal satisfaction. He found that people who live to be over 100 place value on contentment, rather than constant growth and change. Family comes first and there is a focus on community and social activities. Think of physical activity along the lines of the three bears- too little or too much is a problem, but moderate, daily movement is optimal. Excess exercise is inflammation inducing, and too little - the body begins to break down. But moderate exercise stimulates muscle growth, cardiovascular health, blood sugar control, is anti-inflammatory and more.
How do I eat like I’m from a Blue Zone?
Food is 95% plant based. Think of meat as a holiday treat and small portions of about 3 ounces of fish a few times a week. Smoking, which is the number one killer in America, is a no-no in the Blue Zones!
Blue Zone area diets focus on whole, unprocessed, low sugar foods, mostly plant based, with fatty fish like salmon up to three times a week. Meat and dairy are limited, but up to three eggs a week are allowed. Legumes (beans) and a handful of nuts are encouraged daily. As always, lots of water, but tea and coffee daily as well. As a matter of fact, most Blue Zones diets include up to 3 cups of coffee a day!
But the longevity found in Blue Zones didn’t come just from a healthy diet. The exponentially powerful anti-aging affect came from combining these lifestyle choices (coined The POWER 9) as well.
The Power 9 are as follows:
- Move Naturally - find space in your day for physical activity. It doesn’t have to be a high intensity workout, or even take place at the gym! Make easy adjustments, such as walking during lunch, biking to the park, or walking the dog.
- Know Your Purpose - Find what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and dedicate your time and energy there.
- Down Shift - Schedule time into your day to rest and relax! It’s important to give your brain and body time to unwind and exist free of stress. Make space for yourself.
- 80% Rule - Make 80% healthy choices. Not perfect? None of us are! Perfect is not the goal, better is.
- Plant Slant - Fill your plate with vegetables, and supplement with the rest. If the majority of your diet is plants, you’re doing very well!
- Wine @ 5 - That’s right! Enjoy those antioxidants! Blue Zones cultures have a glass of red wine at dinnertime!
- Family First - Surrounding yourself with family members makes you feel love and loved. Both are important for emotional health and well-being.
- Belong - Find someplace that you really feel you belong. This goes along with your purpose; find it and flourish there.
- Right Tribe - Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is important in feeling accepted. But is everyone you choose to surround yourself a positive light in your day, or do some cause stress and unhappiness? Cleanse yourself of the negative and surround yourself with the positive.
So, look at your lifestyle patterns and compare them to these simple Blue Zones tips. Make it your lifetime commitment to increased energy, strength, and health by making one change at a time. By the end of the year, you will be a Blue Zones success story as well!
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