What the Blue Zones Can Teach Us About Eating Well

What the Blue Zones Can Teach Us About Eating Well

There are five places in the world ­where people routinely live the longest, and are the healthiest. Although geographically diverse, these ‘Blue Zones’ (as they’ve been dubbed) share nine specific lifestyle habits.

Among other things, folks who live here tend to move naturally (walk, garden, etc.), put loved ones first, have a strong sense of purpose and understand the importance of downshifting. They also enjoy a glass of red wine with their evening meal.

These guys clearly have this longevity business waxed, so it makes sense to see what they can teach us about eating well, as well. Especially when you consider that humans are living longer — but they’re also getting sicker.

The Meteoric Rise of Lifestyle Diseases

The number of older adults suffering from more than one chronic disease is on the increase. But they’re not the only ones at risk. Lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke are just as prominent in younger generations. Every year, some 14.2 million people between the ages of 30-69 die prematurely as a result of these illnesses.

Compare that with the Blue Zones, where they boast the lowest rates of middle age mortality and dementia and live about 10 years longer than the average North American. They’re not obese, their blood pressure is normal and they have a positive outlook on life. For them, something like leaky gut syndrome is as ‘out there’ as it is commonplace for us.

What Can We Learn from These Longevity Hotspots?

Getting sick has become unaffordable, but what is the solution? The answer to our modern day health woes is as simple as it is smart. Thanks to food writer Michael Pollan, it can be summed up in seven words.

Eat food. Mainly plants. Not too much.


And that’s essentially how our Blue Zones centenarians roll as well. There are two lessons in particular that they can teach us about eating well.

  1. Eat a Plant-Slanted Diet

The Blue Zones food guidelines are pretty straightforward. The majority of their calories come from plants (fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, beans, etc.). They eat meat only a few times a month and in the case of the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, not at all.

They go easy on eggs and dairy, don’t eat sugar and choose to snack on raw nuts rather than salty, oily crisps. They eat bread, but only sourdough or 100 percent whole wheat.

2. Follow the 80% Rule

In Okinawa, the mantra “Hara hachi bu” is said before each meal as a way to remind people to eat only until they are 80 percent full. Leaving that 20% gap avoids the possibility of overeating.

People in the Blue Zones don’t go in for large, late night dinners, either. They’ll enjoy their smallest meal of the day in the early evening and won’t eat again until the following morning.

What it boils down to is this. Ditch the processed junk and make your own food from scratch with whole food ingredients. You’ll be healthier, your bank account will be healthier and ultimately, so will the planet.

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