THE BLUE ZONES: secrets of longevity
Where on earth people live the longest?
In 2004 two longevity experts started globe-trotting. They were on a quest to discover the places with the highest rate of people who are very old and still in good health. After a whole decade of intensive explorations around the world they come up with 5 regions in which centenarians and long-lived persons are quite an impressive number. The experts called these the Blue Zones. They are as follows: the southern japanese island of Okinawa; Sardinia in Italy; the greek island Ikaria; Nicoya archipelago in Costa Rica and the californian city of Loma Linda.
The unique features of the longevity regions
The first distinguishing feature of these regions is the terrain. Usually it is insular or mountainous, which isolates it from the world and requires more active cultivation of local produce. In turn, this guarantees people more fresh food, mostly plant-based, and also “forces” them to perform physical labor – to move and be active even at an old age.
Another specific feature of their lifestyle is architecture. For example, the Sardinians live in houses with many stairs, which in practice is a kind of sport for the people. Okinawan people do not have chairs and sit on the ground, which creates frequent and natural conditions for stretching and moving the body.
Third comes the social environment. In all these areas, people live in close-knit communities, often see family and friends, have many activities and experiences together. Scientists prove that this is fundamental to the sense of happiness.
It turns out that the traditions of everyday life, such as the type of cookware and plates, also have a great influence. The Japanese eat in miniature bowls and plates, which makes it easy for them not to overeat.
The diet in the Blue Zones
In the Blue Zones, over 150 studies of nutrition and diet have been conducted. It turns out that in Okinawa, where are the world’s longest-lived women and in Sardinia, where the world’s longest-lived men live, 95% of the diet is plant-based. Another very typical habit is to stop eating when you are about 80% full – long-lived practitioners never overeat.
Thirdly, home-cooked food is the dominant in the lives of people in the Blue Zones. And they also make sure to eat a handful of nuts during the day, focusing most of their meals earlier in the day rather than late at night. Scientists bring out some of the key foods for the 5 blue zones: all kinds of beans and green leaves; sweet potatoes; nuts; olive oil; fruits; teas; oats; 100% whole grain bread and pasta. Of course, they also analyze those foods that are not practically eaten by centenarians.
These are: sweet beverages, salty snacks, packaged sweets. Healthy diet includes but in very limited quantities: meat (maximum 2 times a week on the menu); dairy products and eggs; white bread. Italian long-lived people, on the other hand, drink one glass of Cannonau local wine daily. In general, their diet is rich in antioxidants and omega fatty acids.