Think living a long and healthy life well into your nineties or even one hundred years old is only for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again.
Lifestyle factors, i.e. the things you do everyday over the long-term – can add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan.
Look no further than the people of Blue Zones for proof of how powerful everyday habits are when it comes to staying healthy for the long haul.
The Blue Zones are regions around the world where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations.
They are located in regions of Greece, Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan, and California, where a large number of Seventh Day Adventists reside.
Because these communities are home to the greatest number of people who live healthfully into their nineties and even hundreds, researchers have studied them to determine just how they age so healthfully.
Do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? Nope! You can adopt some of the well-studied lifestyle traits of these folks to promote health and longevity right where you are.
Here’s the top 10 life “hacks” of the world’s longest living people, and a blue zone recipe below:
Eat a Plant-rich Diet
Blue Zone residents eat a mostly plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Animal foods aren’t avoided – they eat smaller portions of meat a handful of times per month.
You don’t have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but it’s important to eat a variety of plant foods daily - they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and protect you from chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
A simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Yep, every meal!
Include Healthy Fats
Eat heart healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, and fish.
Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy.
Eating enough fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, which can help prevent overeating that leads to weight gain - bonus!
Stop Eating Before You Feel 100% Full
Avoid the clean plate club. Eating slowly chewing your food thoroughly gives your brain and stomach time to register that it’s had enough to eat.
Blue Zone communities avoid overeating and eating beyond feelings of fullness, which again, can help prevent weight gain.
Drink Red Wine
Enjoying a glass of red wine a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease.
Of course, moderation is key. Six ounces of wine is considered a glass and drinking more than that can be associated with negative health effects.
Move Your Body Throughout the Day
Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time.
Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality. Be sure to look for opportunities to add movement into your regular routines.
You might try:
● Stretching while you watch tv
● Take an after dinner evening walk
● Park farther away from your destination
● Choose stairs over elevators
● Take standing and stretching breaks at work
● Use a stand-up workstation, and fidget while you work (or dance!)
The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.
Know Your Purpose
People in Blue Zones tend to have a strong sense of their life purpose, known as ‘ikigai’ in Okinawa or ‘plan de vida’ in Nicoya, which loosely translates to ‘why I wake up in the morning.’
"Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy." – Dan Buettner
Shed the Stress
Stress is a major cause of disease and unhappiness in the world today. It leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. Stress is a part of daily life and even people living in the Blue Zones experience stress, but it’s how they manage it that makes all the difference. The world’s longest-lived people have routine and rituals for shedding stress.
Put Your Family First
In the Blue Zones, families are kept close. This includes the aged parents and family members, who remain in the home with other family members, or live nearby. They commit to a life partner and invest lots of time and loving energy into their children.
Find Your Tribe
We all know the benefits of finding your tribe. But even more so, being with a tribe that promotes life-affirming, healthful behaviors is even more vital. Other life-affirming habits of Blue Zones people include a lack of time urgency, daily social interactions, a strong cultural community and spiritual or religious connection.
BLUE ZONE RECIPE
Mediterranean Bean Salad
2 15-oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (use black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans or chickpeas/garbanzo beans)
1 english cucumber, chopped with skin on
1 bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomato, halved
1 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
¼ cup virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 whole cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh herb
salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl or sealed jar with a lid, whisk or shake together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper.
3. Toss salad with dressing and enjoy at room temperature or refrigerate unused portions.