The secrets from the Blue Zones

Written by Endeavour College of Natural Health | 1 April, 2020

elderly woman placing roast chicken on table in front of two children and a young woman smiling

First of all, what are Blue Zones? Blue Zones are the areas across the globe which have the highest concentration of people living longer than average.

The term ‘blue zone’ was founded by Dan Buettner in his cover story for National Geographic Magazine ‘Secrets of a Long Life’. These areas contain locals who are living over 100, 10 times more than anywhere else. Not only are they living a long and healthy life, but also a happy life, which you’ll soon find out contributes to their age.

Of course, genetics play part in life expectancy, however, there are still many simple strategies and techniques that we can adopt to give ourselves the best chance at a longer life expectancy. Fascinated by this concept (and desperate to find out what the ‘magic pill’ is for an everlasting life), we looked closely into Dan Buettner’s findings and zoned in on five of the Blue Zones hotspots and their unique lifestyle characteristics.

The Blue Zones (and their secrets revealed)

North of Sardinia, Italy
Men live the longest here. Their diet is mostly plant-based, they commonly eat cheese made from grass-fed animals which is high in omega 3 fatty acids and they drink a type of wine with three times the polyphenols of any other wine in the world, Cannonau. They also pay close attention to taking care of the elders by keeping the grandparents close to the family. This in itself is believed to add four to six years to life expectancy.

Okinawa, Japan
The residents of Okinawa have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. They live seven good years longer than the average American, five times as many centenarians, they experience one fifth of the rate of breast and colon cancer. They have strategies in place to stop themselves from overeating such as eating off smaller plates and by plating their meals at the counter and not sitting down to enjoy the meals until putting the food away, plus they aim to stop eating when they are 80% full. Residents also belong to a Moai. Traditionally, young children are paired together with a commitment for each other for life. This means that together they support each other through the hardships and pleasures of life. Locals of Okinawa also never stop working. This doesn’t mean they’re slaving away at their day-time job, but more describes living with purpose, going on with life with an attitude that they’re not too old to do anything.

Seventh Day Adventist, California
The women of this community live nine or more years longer than the average person and 11 or more years longer in men. For 24 hours a week, they stop and go for nature walks. It’s not uncommon here to find the local residents (100 years plus) lifting weights, building fences, going for morning swims and still driving and working.

Nicoya, Costa Rica
The residents of Nicoya have a very similar positive outlook amongst the elders as the other Blue Zones. They also put a precedence on family community and the elders are well looked after. A common dinner amongst the residents would include a light dinner of squash, corn and beans, this is a traditional Mesoamerican diet. They eat early in the evening giving their cells a longer time to repair and rejuvenate.

Ikaria, Greece
The residents of Ikaria enjoy a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, seafood, wholegrains and olive oil. Following a strict Greek Orthodox Christian faith, it’s a requirement to fast for nearly half of the year. Fasting has proven to slow the aging process in mammals. They also uniquely choose goat’s milk to cow’s milk. Goat’s milk contains potassium and stress relieving hormone – tryptophan.

Common traits amongst the Blue Zones

  • They live in environments where they’re able to move frequently, but gently and naturally (no ab circle or Stairmaster required!)
  • There’s less convenience in their life. For example, they do a lot of things by hand and they get to places nearby by foot
  • They drink red wine, a couple of glasses a day, however no excess drinking
  • They have daily rituals which help with stress relief (yoga, meditation and nature walks)
  • 95% of their dietary intake contains beans, nuts, unprocessed grains and greens
  • They tend to belong to a religious and spiritual community
  • They live with a sense of purpose and want to contribute somehow each day to their community – this could be by volunteering or fixing something
  • They put family first
  • They each have a garden

5 tips to help you live a healthier life

  1. Be physically active doing the things you enjoy the most – aim to include a wide variety of plant wholefoods, particularly antioxidant rich foods everyday
  2. Avoid technology at the dinner table, this includes the TV and social media
  3. Prioritise and plan your meal times, so you can digest your food properly and enjoy your meals
  4. Mental wellbeing is important for physical wellbeing, so avoid stress, take time to downshift, which may include meditation, socialising and laughing as much as possible. When you are feeling stressed take time to focus on your breathing.
  5. Surround yourselves with the right supportive people who genuinely make you feel happy.

Endeavour College of Natural Health

Endeavour College of Natural Health is Australia's largest Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses.

The College is known as the centre of excellence for natural medicine and is respected for its internationally recognised academic teams and high calibre graduates. Endeavour offers Bachelor of Health Science degrees in Naturopathy, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine, Acupuncture Therapies and Chinese Medicine, Undergraduate Certificates, a Diploma of Health Science and massage courses.

Read more by Endeavour College of Natural Health

Related Articles