We all aspire to live long, healthy and happy lives. Could adopting a Blue Zones approach be the answer?
What are ‘Blue Zones’?
Blue Zones are locations around the world that researchers have identified, where people seem to enjoy a longer life of good health. Inhabitants of Blue Zones are more likely to live to 100 than anywhere else on the planet, with the number of centenarians almost 5-times higher than in Australia.
There are 9 key elements Blue Zone ‘hot spots’ have in common:
- Incorporating movement naturally as part of their daily routine – moving every 10- 15 minutes.
- Have a sense of purpose each day.
- Maintain a routine that helps keep them relaxed. Stress can lead to chronic inflammation in the body.
- Stop eating when they are 80% full.
- They eat a more plant-based diet and minimal red meat.
- They enjoy a glass of wine with friends and family.
- They live as part of a community.
- Engagement with family is key to a Blue Zone way of life.
- Enjoy an active social life.
Where are the Blue Zones?
The five blue zones where researchers discovered the longest-living people on earth include:
- Sardinia, Italy
- Ikaria, Greece
- Okinawa, Japan
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Loma Linda, California (heavily populated by a religious group called the Seventh-day Adventists)
Why a Blue Zone diet?
One of the key elements of the Blue Zones is eating a plant based diet. A major scientific review from 2014 looked at the link between diet and chronic disease from 304 meta-analyses and systematic reviews published in the last 63 years – the biggest analysis of its kind. The key findings showed that plant-based foods were more protective against the risk of developing chronic disease compared to animal-based foods. Interestingly, among the plant foods, grain-based foods seemed to have a small edge over fruits and vegetables.
Importance of whole grains
The health benefits of whole grains have been the subject of many studies – most of which have come to the same conclusions: Eating whole grains can increase your longevity.
A meta-analysis published in BMJ reported that whole grains can help you live longer by reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease and infectious diseases. The report notes that consuming 90 grams of whole grains a day cuts risk for all causes of mortality by 17 percent.
How do you adopt a Blue Zone diet?
Ultimately, the things that these people all had in common were simple, social and sustainable lives that resulted in improved mental and physical satisfaction and consequent longevity.
The Blue Zones dietary approach is not complicated. A lot of the guidelines are common sense and by applying these simple dietary changes, you too can promote well-being and a longer life:
- Eat more wholegrains, fruit and vegetables – especially legumes.
- Increase your water intake
- Don’t over-indulge in food – stop eating before you’re full
- Get active and move your body every day
- Enjoy a glass of wine with a light dinner
- Eat meat only on special occasions.