Astoundingly, there are five regions in the world where people live up to 10 years longer on average! These populations have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and suffer significantly less from depression and dementia. Together, these regions are known as Blue Zones. Blue Zones have been of particular interest to some researchers because they believe that these areas and their people can provide us with the secrets we need to live longer and healthier lives. Let’s we take a closer look at the diets of these regions to identify any healthy habits that we can adopt.
Icaria Greece is a small island 30 miles off the west coast of Turkey. It is home to thick oak forests and rolling hills covered in vineyards. With a population of only 10,000, life moves at a relaxed pace. Many wake up late and take naps during the day. Their diet consists of moderate amounts of alcohol, places an emphasis on homegrown potatoes, beans, and wild greens, and includes locally produced goat milk and honey. This diet has a low intake of saturated fats from meat and dairy in addition to the consumption of large amounts of olive oil, which reduces bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol.
Goat’s milk contains serotonin boosting tryptophan and is easily digestible. Some wild greens even contain up to 10 times as many antioxidants as red wine. Furthermore, the consumption of wine helps the body to absorb flavonoids, an antioxidant. Other aspects of the Ikarian diet include mountain tea made from dried herbs, Wild Marjoram, Sage, Mint Tea, and Rosemary Drink. These teas also provide the following benefits:
- Wild Mint helps fight gingivitis and gastrointestinal disorders*
- Rosemary is used as an herbal remedy for gout*
- Rich source of antioxidants*
An important aspect of the Ikarian population’s diet is not only what they eat, but what they don’t; their diet contains no white flour, and no sugar. These habits have served the Ikarians well, as 1 of 3 live until their nineties.
Loma Linda, California
Loma Linda is home to a large population of Seventh-Day Adventists, and it is believed that their healthy lifestyle contributes largely to Loma Linda being a Blue Zone. Here they follow a vegetarian diet that allows milk and eggs but forbids alcohol and caffeine. Plain and simply prepared foods with an emphasis on whole grain high fiber foods are enjoyed daily.
Sardinia is an island off of the coast of Italy, and it is the quintessential Mediterranean beauty. Sardinia is home to a population of 1.6 million people, and here the men reach the age of 100 at an astounding rate. Once again, diet plays a role in maintaining people’s health. In Sardinia, the diet consists of genuine food, which means lots of minestrone and little meat. Additionally, they grow their own beans, aubergines, peppers, and potatoes. These fresh, locally grown vegetables are prepared in olive oil and served with lemon, garlic, and spices.
Nicoya, Costa Rica
The Nicoya Peninsula is a land filled with idyllic beaches, upscale resorts, woody hills, cattle ranches, and cow pastures. Costa Ricans have the lowest rate of middle-age mortality and have the second highest population of men over the age of 100. The diet in Nicoya is a plant based diet, which is filled with rice corn, plantain, beans, and strange fruits such as the orange-like maronon, pear-like anona, and chayote, a squash-like vegetable. The water is also high in calcium and magnesium which helps strengthen bones and muscles.
Okinawa, Japan is an island off of the Japanese mainland which consists of a coral reef and igneous rock. Here there are 34 centenarians per 100,000 people, more than 3 times the rate than in mainland Japan. Okinawa is also known for having the oldest living women. As with all Blue Zones, diet plays an important role in sustaining a long and healthy life. The diet in Okinawa is sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Realistically, it is true that sweet potatoes make up a large part of the diet, however other foods are eaten. 30% of the diet consists of green and yellow vegetables. A tiny amount of fish is eaten as well as some legumes. These dietary habits provide high levels of vitamin A, B1, and B2.
Although the Blue Zones are found in diverse areas of the world, each with different cultures, and traditions, dietary habits consistently play a key role in contributing to healthy lives. Here are six key healthy habits we can all adopt:
- Vegetarian Focused Diet
- Homegrown Foods
- Alcohol only in Moderation
- No Processed Foods
- Surround Ourselves with a Supportive Community of Healthy Friends