There are five so-called Blue Zones around the world: two in the Mediterranean (Sardinia, Italy, and Ikaria, Greece); a third in Okinawa, Japan; a fourth around the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica; and the last in Loma Linda, a small city in California. What is a Blue Zone, you ask? As defined by Dan Buettner in his 2005 National Geographic cover piece, “Secrets of Long Life,” it’s a geographic area that is home to a population with above-average life expectancies and one of world’s highest percentages of centenarians (people 100 years old and above). Residents of Blue Zones often live well into their 90s and suffer fewer incidences of dementia, cancer, and heart disease than those in other areas.
But what do these Blue Zone populations have in common? What are their secrets to long lives?
Researchers have examined the Blue Zone inhabitants’ diets, daily routines, and social structures, and have uncovered a series of patterns. Blue Zone communities exhibit rich familial ties, partake in moderate physical activity daily, don’t smoke, rarely drink, and are socially committed to their friends and neighbors. However, above all, the longevity of the Blue Zone populations can be attributed to their food choices.
The cultures in the five Blue Zones couldn’t be more different from one another, but their dietary foundations are more or less the same. Their cuisines are predominately vegetarian, with a diet consisting mostly of vegetables, legumes, soy, tropical fruits, nuts, whole grains, and only a small amount of meat and dairy. A constant flow of scientific evidence has confirmed that Blue Zone diets are advantageous to good health and longevity.
Here are 12 foods to help you eat your way to a longer life.