What’s the secret to a long and healthy life, and how can you live in your own blue zone? While individuals are continuously looking to aesthetics in hopes of looking younger, the fountain of youth could be right under their noses.
What Are Blue Zones?
Following research performed by Michel Poulain and Giani Pes, in 2004 a group of researchers led by National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner popularized the notion of the Blue Zone by embarking on a journey to find out which regions of the world had the lowest rates of middle-age mortality. They eventually uncovered five areas that were virtually free of disease and with a large amount of healthy residents that were living to age 100 and beyond.
These Five Places Were:
- Okinawa, Japan
- Sardinia, Italy
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Icaria, Greece
- A population of Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California.
The researchers coined the term ‘Blue Zones’ to describe these areas because they had drawn blue ink around them on a map. It’s important to note that these five places are not geographically close to each other nor do their residents share common ethnicities or backgrounds.
The Fountain Of Youth
As the researchers investigated these five particular regions, they began to notice common trends between the five areas, more-so in regards to their diet, social life and level of physical activity.
These trends were better explained in Dan Buettner’s book, however we’ve chosen our favorite tips on how one can create their own blue zone lifestyle to live a longer, healthier life.
1. A Plant-Based Diet
While there is no one specific diet that the Blue Zone inhabitants all share, their principles are generally the same.
Aside from their diets being void of processed meats and junk food, as well as rich in plenty of fruits and vegetables, Blue Zone people also eat legumes – which studies have shown help to lower mortality – whole grains, nuts, quality olive oil, herbs, fermented foods such as kefir and miso, grass-fed goat milk, homemade cheeses and fish like cod and sardines.
With regards to meat, while the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California are strict vegetarians, the other communities only consume meat five times a month. With various studies displaying the increased risk of heart disease and cancer that comes from high meat consumption, it’s no wonder that these Blue Zoners live such long lives.
These foods provide a number of vital nutrients and minerals that can help prevent inflammation, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and even stroke. Thus, how can you mimic this diet?
Be sure to consume plenty of vegetables and fruits on a daily basis, healthy fats, nuts, legumes, fermented foods and stay clear of refined sugars and packaged foods.
2. Enjoy A Glass A Day
Granted, there continues to be mixed evidence about the effect of alcohol consumption on mortality, residents of Blue Zone communities consume one to two daily glasses of red wine – which happens to be rich in antioxidants.
It’s important to note that the various studies that highlight the benefits of alcohol consumption also take into account other lifestyle factor such as diet and fitness.
3. Good Social Ties
While we all have those days where we’d rather be alone, myself included, family and social ties can help promote longevity. Solitude and isolation can increase affect mortality by increasing cortisol(the stress hormone) and inflammation which then increases the risk for chronic diseases. However, with family and community being such a big priority in blue zone areas, these risks are practically null and void.
Blue Zone inhabitants have strong social systems with multigenerational homes (old-age homes don’t exist), strong parent-child relationships and wonderful spiritual communities. For one, Okinawans have moais, which is a group of people that remain connected their whole lives, spending time talking, cooking and supporting each other, whereas on Saturdays, Seventh-day Adventists rest and socialize.
With the fast-paced lifestyle that is the modern world, it may be difficult to find some downtime for yourself, let alone a family members and friends. However, it can be done. Aside from regular family dinners, try setting aside regular night outs with friends.
4. An Active Lifestyle
There’s no such thing as sedentary in the blue zone.
While they don’t have any gym memberships, the blue zone incorporate an active lifestyle into their everyday lives. This include gardening, hiking, walking and even their chores incorporate some form of activeness, as is the case with raising farm animals. They also practice yoga, tai chi and dancing. An active lifestyle is a sure way to relieve stress, improve heart health as well as reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Click here to see which workouts you can do from the comfort of your own couch.
5. Hara Hachi Bu
Hara hachi bu is a Japanese term that teaches one to eat until they are only 80% full. While the rest of the world tends to overeat, Blue Zone residents stop eating before they are full and this helps to reduce the risk of excess calories and weight gain. Moreover, foods that Blue Zone inhabitants consume are rich in fibre and other nutrients which are digested slowly, thus quickly triggering feelings of satiety.
Another dietary habit that these regions follow is fasting. Be it intermittent fasting, or other forms of fasting, this act can help in regards to weight management as well as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. For different forms of fasting as well as which one is the best for you, click here.
6. Stress Management
Stress is a natural part of life however chronic stress can lead to a number of fateful illnesses thus it’s important to practice good stress reduction techniques.
Aside from building a strong support network, residents of Blue Zone regions help to reduce stress by praying, taking walks, exercising and meditating. You can do the same but you can also learn to be mindful of when you’re taking on too much as well as practicing a digital detox.
7. Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is important and not getting enough of it can affect mortality by reducing immune function as well as increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Aside from providing their bodies with as much sleep as it tells them, people in Blue Zones also regularly take afternoon naps.
Can’t seem to get some sleep? Try adding some sleep-inducing plants to your bedroom such as these.
8. Maintaining A Sense Of Purpose
Known as ikigai in Okinawa or plan de vida in Nicoya, having a life purpose has been linked with better mental health as well as increased mortality. Essentially you need to have an answer to why you wake up in the morning and finding this reason requires a deep personal journey of self-discovery.
Establish Your Very Own Blue Zone
Inhabitants of the Blue Zone areas are some of the oldest and healthiest people in the world, but you don’t need to move there in hopes of reaching age 100. By staying mindful of the Blue Zones principles of living, and finding your fit when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, you can make it your own and enjoy better health and longevity. Make sure to find like-minded people who enjoy the same kind of lifestyle, with whom you can spend time cooking, exercising and socializing, because Blue Zones are meant to be shared, and once people know how enjoyable it is to live in one, they will never want to leave.