What are Blue Zones?
‘Blue Zones’ is a non-scientific term given to geographic regions that are home to some of the world’s oldest people.
This term was first used by the author Dan Buettner, who was studying areas in the world in which people live exceptionally long lives. They are called Blue Zones because when Buettner and his colleagues were searching these areas, they drew blue circles around them on a map.
Where are Blue Zones?
- Ikaria, Greece – an island eight miles off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea
- Okinawa, Japan
- Ogliastra Region, Sardinia
- Loma Linda, California
- Nicoya Peninsula, Cost Rica
Although these refer to areas discussed in Buettner’s book., there may be unidentified areas in the world that could also be Blue Zones.
Common lifestyle factors of Blue Zones:
- Regular physical exercise plus remaining active into older age.
- Strong family unit and community life.
- Having a sense of Purpose.
- Managing Stress well.
- No focus on retirement and age care facilities.
- Mostly plant-based nutrition.
Studies of Blue Zones
Several studies have found that these areas contain extremely high rates of nonagenarians and centenarians, which are people who live to be over 90 and 100, respectively. Scientists believe genetics probably only account for 20% of longevity. Therefore, environmental influences, including diet and lifestyle play a huge role in determining one’s lifespan
Nutrition of the Blue Zones
One of the coming things in the Blue Zones is that those who live there primarily eat a 95% plant-based diet. Also, most groups are not strictly vegetarian/vegan, they only tend to eat very little meat and never more than around 5 times per month.
Instead, diets in the Blue Zones are typically rich in the following:
- Vegetables: They’re a great source of fibre and many different vitamins and minerals. Eating more than 5 serves of vegetables and fruit a day can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and death.
- Legumes: include beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, and they are all rich in fibre and protein. A number of studies has shown that eating legumes is associated with lower mortality.
- Whole Grains (Gluten Free): Whole grains are also rich in fibre. A high intake of whole grains can reduce blood pressure and is associated with reduced colorectal cancer and deaths from heart disease.
- Nuts and seeds in moderation: Nuts are great sources of fibre, protein and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Combined with a healthy diet, they are associated with reduced mortality and might even help reverse metabolic syndrome.
Daily Life in the Blue Zones
Another trait of the people living in the Blue Zones is that they typically do gardening and grow some of their own fruit and vegetables.
Community and purpose remains strong also and this is a definite factor in great health and wellbeing that is often overlooked.