Health Advice From Blue Zones Author, National Geographic Explorer & Longevity Expert Dan Buettner

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Internationally renowned National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner traveled the world researching the planet’s “Blue Zones,” regions boasting the highest concentration of centenarian residents, with people largely unconcerned with modern day health afflictions like heart disease and diabetes. These zones include Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece, Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda (California), United States; Nicoya, Costa Rica and Monterrey (Nueva Leon), Mexico.He began to observe commonalities between these geographically diverse regions, habits and values that all these different groups of people had in common. 

From this came books, TED talks and speaker series during which he shares the key takeaways from his years of longevity study. Below we list out some of Buettner’s most valuable observations that all of us can practice- some of the findings may surprise you. What’s clear is that that those who make it to 100 years on this earth have plenty of health wisdom to offer and we ought to learn from them.

Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list and we recommend that you take the time to explore the Blue Zones website and give his books a read- they are well worth it.

Blue Zone Tip #1: Eat More Beans

All the people Buettner studied consume on average a cup of beans a day- for the Sicilians it’s fava beans, for the Japanese it’s soya beans, for the Greek, it’s chickpeas…Lentils, pulses, dahl, tofu- go with whatever form works for you!

Blue Zone Tip #2: Make Your Diet Mostly Plant-Based

Buettner observes that while centenarians do consume some animal protein (mostly fish and pork in the communities he visited), they do so less than a handful of times a month. The rest of the time, they are plant-based.

Blue Zone Tip #3: Schedule Some Nap Time

Getting some daytime Zzzs is another habit that the Blue Zones people have in common- apparently napping lowers your stress hormones and gives your heart a break.

Blue Zone Tip #4: Practice Portion Control

Certainly enjoying food is an important part of life but Buettner’s regions are devoid of excess, gluttony and over consumption. The centenarians eat until they are no longer hungry and then they stop- AKA the 80% full rule. They never overdo it. For example, a pig roast is shared with the whole village- rather than one person scarfing down the whole hog. Obviously we don’t need to underline how different their focus on moderation is from our modern food culture.

Blue Zone Tip #5: Move Around A Lot

This one is the hardest to follow for office dwellers. One of the most important lessons that Buettner imbibed was the importance of constant daily movement. Intense gym sessions are apparently not the answer. All the centenarians spend their days being physically active and attending to their daily chores: gardening, foraging, shepherding…many live on hills. While we can’t replicate this exactly,

Blue Zone Tip #6: Believe In Something

The importance of faith is a fascinating find in Buettner’s research- all of the communities he observed benefitted from a commitment to religion. Whether it’s the feeling of community, the support available during hard times or the hope that belief in a higher being provides, who knows why it matters but it’s worth considering it nonetheless.

Blue Zone Tip #7: Moderate Drinking Is Ok

Nope, we are not suggesting you make your weekend binge something regular. That being said, most of the Blue Zones centenarians enjoy one or two small servings of alcohol in the early evening, usually some type of wine. Must be the antioxidants… Here’s to bringing back aperitivo hour!

Photo credit: 2003 – Julia in Sardinia via photopin (license).

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