Want to Live to Be 100? Try the Blue Zone Diet

Lindsey Metrus

In the early 2000s, Dan Buettner, a certified globetrotter, noticed that some countries had much longer life spans than others. Fascinated by this, he travelled to Ogliastra, Sardinia, to meet with Michel Poulain and Giovanni Mario Pes, both of whom discovered that the largest number of male centenarians (aka men who live to be 100+) in the world hailed from the Italian island. Poulain and Pes circled the area with a blue marker to segregate it from the rest of the map, later dubbing it a "blue zone." Buettner collaborated with them to conduct further research on other long-living regions, extending the blue "zone" to four other regions: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. In 2005, Buettner wrote a piece with the help of scientific researchers and demographic experts for The National Geographic outlining what each area's inhabitants are doing correctly; from this came what's known today as the Blue Zone phenomenon.

The average life expectancy of an American is around 78 years whereas the average Blue Zone inhabitant reaches well into their 80s with an exponentially higher number of centenarians than elsewhere. These substantiative findings beg the question: What are these places doing right that we (and other non–Blue Zone countries) aren't? For starters, after completing over 150 dietary surveys, researchers discovered some common nutritional themes among the world's oldest people: the Blue Zone diet consists of 95% plants; meat is eaten in very small quantities, with fish is enjoyed up to three days a week; minimal dairy and sugar is consumed; and beans and whole grains are an important portion of daily meals, though enjoyed sparingly. Their lifestyle is strikingly different as well: Instead of putting in overtime and stressing over work, Blue Zone dwellers make it a point to fit in naps, social time, walks, gardening, and sex (more on that below). To gain a better understanding of the habits of the most prosperous humans in the world, we broke down each Blue Zone's diet and lifestyle. Keep scrolling to learn more!

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