Did you know that there are groups of people across the world that have been deemed the healthiest people on Earth? They live longer than any other groups on Earth and they are all different ethnicities. When I found out about these groups, I was intrigued. I wanted to know what makes the healthiest lifestyle. Why is it that these people are so special and healthy but all so different? It’s all about the Blue Zone lifestyle. So what makes them so healthy and what can we learn from them? I did the research and will explain how you can adopt the Blue Zone lifestyle.
What is a Blue Zone
Blue Zones are locations where the people who live there, live longer than any other areas in the world. They have the highest concentrations of centenarians (people who live over 100 years) than any other areas. They are clearly doing something right. As a result, people started to ask why the people in these Blue Zones are living so long? Apparently there are several aspects to their lifestyles that are similar.
Where are the Blue Zones
- The Italian island of Sardinia
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California (where there is a large community of Seventh-day Adventists)
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- The Greek island of Ikaria
What the Blue Zones Have in Common
Just because you don’t live in Okinawa, doesn’t mean you can’t live like Blue Zone people. There are 5 lifestyle qualities that each of these groups have in common. You can mirror these qualities in your own lifestyle as well.
All of these locations eat meat rarely or not at all. Meat is only eaten a few times a month in very small portions (about 3 to 4 ounces). Seventh Day Adventists were the exception because they do not eat meat at all. When the Blue Zoners do eat animal products, they are always raised locally, grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild caught, and free of antibiotics and growth hormones (source,source).
SInce their diet isn’t very meat heavy, they all eat mostly plants. Frequently eating beans and whole grains. (A bit different than the Paleo diet.) All of the food they eat is either home or locally grown without pesticide use, which allows them to get the most nutrients out of their food.
Timing of Meals
As Americans, all of our meals tend to be big but dinner has the reputation to be the mostfilling. This is the opposite of how the Blue Zone cultures eat. They all tend to have their smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
While eating any meal, they also stop eating when they are 80% full. One of my favorite quotes that pokes fun at the American style eating (which I’ve been guilty of in the past) is by Louis C. K. “I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.”
It’s a funny quote which many of us can relate to, especially around the holidays, but we all know that’s not the way we should be eating. We all need to take a page out of the Blue Zone book and stop eating at that 80% full. To do this we need to eat more slowly and pay more attention to our meals while we eat instead of our phones and TV. Your brain needs time to register that you’re full.
I have some good news if you’re a fan of alcohol. Alcohol is drank moderately and frequently (again except for Seventh Day Adventists who do not drink alcohol). The Blue Zoners don’t save their 2 glasses a day to binge on the weekends so sorry, you can’t cheat the system. They do however have 1 to 2 glasses a day so feel free to drink your wine with dinner guilt free.
If healthiness is just about what you eat, I would guess that a more towns would be included as Blue Zones. But the truth is, complete lifestyle is what makes a person healthy.
No surprise here but the people living in Blue Zones are active often. What makes them different from the Soul Cycle junkies of NYC is that they only pick exercises that they enjoy. Some of the activities that they do are yoga, tai chi, sports or games with friends. Their workouts aren’t extremely intense.
They also walk almost every day, doing chores and running errands. They aren’t taking their car to the grocery store or to work. They walk there. While this isn’t feasible for many of us, are there any times where you can take a walk or a bike ride somewhere instead of an Uber? Could you get up from your desk a few times a day to take a walk around the neighborhood? Little things like these make a difference in your health.(source)
A Strong Support System
A Blue Zone lifestyle means having strong social connections. They surround themselves with family and friends. Their cultures make this easy. Everyone is willing to help each other out. They know their neighbors. They hang out with their friends and family on a frequent basis.
Generations also live together so loneliness isn’t a concern for elders or the young. Each generation plays an important role in each family.
The strong relationships that the people living in Blue Zones have also helped them manage stress better than other cultures because they have people to lean on during hard times.(source)
How Can You Live A Longer Healthier Life?
You don’t have to live in Sardinia to adopt the Blue Zone lifestyle. Adopt their eating and living habits into your life.
- Eat a mostly plant based diet that is organic and locally sourced
- Stop eating before your 100% full
- Don’t eat heavy meals late at night
- Avoid binge drinking
- Walk often
- Make exercise a fun activity
- Strengthen your social network – If you live close to your family, spend more time with them. If you moved to a new city where you don’t know many people, find a group of people with a common interest that you can spend time with. Make an effort to spend more in person time with everyone you care about
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