What if you could live to 100? And, I am talking about REALLY LIVING...and thriving! Think of all the great moments, experiences and memories! Imagine being part of not just your grandchildren’s lives, but your great grandchildren…and great, great grandchildren!
Over the past 10+ years, a team of researchers, supported by National Geographic and others, worked together to find specific communities and regions where there is a high percentage of people that live to 100 years old – and where there is a much lower percentage of people with chronic disease.
The result? They found five places they call "blue zones," which include Icaria (Greece), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy) and the Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. For example, in Sardinia, 21 of every 10,000 people live to celebrate their 100th birthday! How does this compare to the U.S.? In America, only about 3 of every 10,000 people live to celebrate the century mark. Life expectancy in the blue zones tends to be 10-12 years longer than the average American life expectancy.
So, what's their secret?
At first, researchers thought it was all about genetics. However, after further study, they realized genetics was not the primary factor...and the genetics of these populations aren't significantly different from the general population. Instead, they determined eating habits plays a HUGE role, along with the culture, environment, and other lifestyle factors.
What does a blue zone diet look like?
- Lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains (in other words, REAL FOOD!).
- Mostly plants…especially BEANS! In some regions, people eat as much as a cup of beans and legumes every day! Read more about why beans really are The Magical Fruit!
- Meat and fish in small portions – 3 to 4 ounces – occasionally. Those living in blue zones tend to eat meat about 5 times per month, often on Sundays and special occasions.
- Alcohol moderately and regularly...about 1-2 glasses per day. And, red wine is the most popular drink. However, this is not true for all of the blue zones...the Adventists in Loma Linda, CA, don't consume alcohol. Read more about enjoying wine and pairing it with your REAL food meals!
- Eat until your stomach is 80% full. Emphasize quality over quantity. No mindless eating. Remember the saying "it takes 20 minutes for your brain to know you are full?" I would imagine their meals last quite a bit longer than our standard meals in the U.S. (even though they are likely consuming less food). Check out the Eat REAL America blog on how to help overcome mindless eating!
- Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
What about the environment?
- Family is #1! Family takes priority over everything else!
- Social network! Everyone looks out for one another...they count on one another, and they savor each other's company. Friends and social gatherings are very important. Of course, good food is often celebrated at these gatherings.
- Physical activity – A LOT of walking! They generally don’t run marathons or have gym memberships, but their environment encourages them to move…and move often. Their primary transportation is their own two feet! They tend to do a lot of gardening, housework, community and home projects, and other physical endeavors. They don’t have to talk themselves into going to the gym each day…their exercise just happens as part of daily life.
- Sense of purpose! They talk a lot about their purpose in life and "why they wake up in the morning." Whether it is doing work they love, preparing food, working on a community project or just taking care of friends and family, they look forward to getting each day started.
- De-stress! The blue zone populations regularly do things to remove stress from their lives. For some, it is praying or meditating. For others, it's a daily nap. The 1-2 daily glasses of wine probably don't hurt either! This supports the mounting evidence that reducing stress can lead to reduced inflammation in the body, which can reduce chronic disease.
- Fresh produce is accessible and affordable – and is a priority!
- Kitchens are used extensively to prepare quick and easy healthy meals.
What won't you find in the blue zones?
- Fad diets (no “magical” pills or diets)
- Dietary supplements (nutrition comes from the food they consume)
- Formal exercise programs (most of their exercise is obtained through daily activities)
- Fast food
- These are just a few examples -- I am sure you can imagine, the list goes on...
What can you do to transform your home or community into something that looks more like a blue zone? Remember, even small steps matter! If you want to see an example of what REALLY LIVING at 100 can look like, take a look at this inspiring video!
Even if you don't live to be 100, it's the quality of your life that matters! See more in the coaching tip, It's Not Dying You Should Worry About! At Eat REAL America, we want to help you live longer and better!