I aspire to live an incredibly long, happy, and healthy life.
That is why I recently read the The Blue Zones Solution, in which New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner reveals the eating and living habits of the world’s longest-lived people.
For over a decade, Buettner (along with the National Geographic Society and a team of researchers) studied the 5 locations around the globe that have the highest concentrations of 100-year-olds, as well as exceptionally low rates of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart problems.
In the book, Buettner lays out the specifics for each of these “Blue Zones” locations, analyzes the trends, and then prescribes a plan for people looking achieve the same level of health and longevity.
The book is fantastic and I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to live a longer, happier life. In case you are short on time, I have tried to summarize my main takeaways below.
Note: Most of the book focuses on food because, as Buettner says, “food may be the best starting point for anyone seeking to emulate the health, longevity, and well-being found in the world’s Blue Zones.” But a significant portion of the book is also devoted to other healthy lifestyle habits commonly found in Blue Zones locations, and I have included some of those key behaviors at the end of this post.
According to The Blue Zones Solution:
The best-of-the-best longevity foods are (Include at least 3 of these daily):
- Beans (black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lentils)
- Greens (spinach, kale, chards, beet tops, fennel tops, collards)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, cashews)
- Olive Oil (green, extra-virgin is best)
- Oats (slow-cook or Irish steel-cut are best)
- Fruits (all kinds)
- Green or Herbal teas
- Turmeric (spice or tea)
The 4 best beverages are:
- Green Tea
- Red Wine (no more than 2 glasses daily)
Foods to Minimize include:
- Meat (eat meat only 2 times per week or less; meat servings should be 2 oz. cooked or less; fine to eat up to 3 oz. of fish daily)
- Dairy such as cheese, cream, and butter (limit as much as possible; Goat’s and Sheep’s milk products are ok)
- Eggs (eat no more than 3 eggs per week)
- Sugar (limit as much as possible — opt for honey and fruit instead)
- Bread (OK to eat 100% whole wheat and true sourdough bread; look for sprouted grain bread, whole grain rye, or pumpernickel bread)
Foods to Avoid (other than a special treat):
- Sugary beverages (sodas, boxed juices)
- Salty snacks (chips, crackers)
- Processed Meats (sausages, salami, bacon, lunch meats)
- Packaged sweets (cookies, candy bars)
Food Guidelines to Live By:
- 95% of your food should be plant-based
- Eat your largest meal at breakfast, a mid-sized lunch, and small dinner
- Stop eating when you’re 80% full
- If you need to snack, make it a piece of fruit or handful of nuts
- Cook most of your meals at home and eat with friends and family as much as possible
The top longevity foods eaten in each Blue Zone:
- Olive oil
- Wild Greens
- Legumes (garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lentils)
- Feta and Goat Cheese
- Sourdough bread
- Herbal Tea
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brown Rice
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Green Tea
- Olive oil
- Goat’s Milk and Sheep’s Milk (including sharp pecorino cheese)
- Flat Bread
- Sourdough Bread
- Fava Beans and Chickpeas
Loma Linda, California:
- Water (7 glasses per day)
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Soy Milk
Peninsula, Costa Rica:
- Corn Tortillas
- Black Beans
Blue Zones lifestyle lessons to maximize happiness, health, and longevity:
- Move daily (e.g. walking or other moderate-intensity activity).
- Socialize more. Research shows that the happiest people socialize at least 8 hours per day, especially with parents and family.
- Know what gets you up in the morning. Knowing your sense of purpose, or reason for living, has been shown to add up to 7 years of life expectancy.
- Have faith. Attending faith-based services (it doesn’t matter what faith) 4 times per month has been shown to add 4–14 years to your life.
- Committing to a life partner can add up to 3 years of life expectancy.
- Aim to sleep 8 hours per night for maximum health and longevity.
- Have sex. 80% of people in Ikaria ages 65–100 are still having sex, and sex has been shown to enhance longevity.
In summary, as noted in the book, “Eat well, stress less, move more, and love more.”
Here’s to a long, happy, healthy, and fulfilling life!