Journey to Good

This Book Explains How to Eat Like the World's Centenarians

Education JourneyAnne WorthComment

Living a long, healthy life is a goal for many of us. So it should come as no surprise that people have studied the pockets around the world where the most centenarians live.

In case you're not quite sure what a centenarian is—it's a person who lives to be 100 years old or older. #Lifegoals, people.

About the Blue Zones

According to author and endurance athlete Dan Buettner, “The Blue Zones” are the five places in the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives:

  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Lomo Linda, California
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Buettner has written about “The Blue Zones” for over 10 years and many people consider him an expert on longevity.

As a part of my wellness journey I decided to read his 2015 book, The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World's Healthiest People. In it, Buettner tells the story of his journeys around the world where he met centenarians and learned about their habits.

While I have heard of “The Blue Zones” in the past (it has been featured on many popular outlets such as Ted Talks, The New York Times, and Newsweek), I never knew why these areas of the world were called "Blue Zones." What makes them blue?

It felt so satisfying when I finally stumbled upon the answer this week in another publication. According to Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life, and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die by Diana Kochilas, Buettner’s colleague, Dr. Michel Poulain, famously circled the five areas of the world on a map using a blue marker during a discussion about the places where people live the longest. That was the genesis of the name, "Blue Zones."

"Plant Slant"

Food Recommendations

According to the book, the diets of centenarians vary, and consist primarily of a plant-based diet.

To make changes easier for people, the book gives ideas such as: always keep a fruit bowl on your counter filled with your favorite fruits. It also includes quick tips for remembering "Blue Zones" principles, such as "plant slant" for eating, meaning: the majority of food intake of centenarians is plant-based.

Beans are a large part of their diets, as are sweet potatoes and nuts. Wine is enjoyed, in moderation of course. Coffee and tea are also part of many centenarian diets.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the recipe portion. Buettner devotes the entire last chapter of the book to recipes, and he includes 77 recipes to try. I’ll follow up with some recipe variations on the blog in the future.

More Than Just Food

This book is about more than just food. 

Buettner developed a philosophy on how to live a healthy life based on what he saw in the "Blue Zones."

It includes nine principles that are super inspiring. I won’t list them all, but here are two principles that really speak to us at Journey to Good:

Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy
— Dan Buettner

"Purpose" Principle
"The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy,” states the principle.

At Journey to Good, our purpose is to find and share accessible ways to live healthfully, mindfully and ethically while enjoying life and seeing the world. We have only been blogging for a month or so but we’ve already experienced some major positive benefits of having this purpose and sharing it with you.

Okinawans created groups of five friends that committed to each other for life
— Dan Buettner

"Right Tribe" Principle
The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors,” states the principle.

Without our friendship, the Journey to Good blog wouldn’t exist. It’s so inspiring to read that good friendship is a proven part of living to be 100 years old.

Advocacy and Efforts at Home

Another section of this book details advocacy efforts that Buettner and his team have contributed to in the United States. It details a few programs they have tried in different cities in America to bring “The Blue Zone” way of life into communities, by attacking the problem from many different angles. It's called "The Blue Zones Project."

This is an incredible part of the book as it shows the power of education and that when challenged, many Americans really do want to change and live healthier lives.

Learn More

I recommend The Blue Zones Solution or any of Buettner’s other publications to learn more. He has a new follow-up book coming out in October 2017 as well called, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World's Happiest People, so keep an eye out for that.

Have you read any of the Blue Zones publications or watched the TED Talks and if so, what did you think? Are the two principles I highlighted ("purpose" and "right tribe") important in your life journey?