If you haven’t heard of this term yet, you may want to learn about it if you hope to live to one hundred years old. Blue Zones refer to areas of the world where people have the highest concentration of centenarians. It was first reported by National Geographic in 2005, but then featured by another author in a book with the same name. He highlighted areas of the world where the locals statistically lived the longest. The regions featured were Loma Linda, (California), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Sardinia (Italy), and Icaria (Greece). What he found was that all of them had some very similar characteristics. When I first learned about the Blue Zone, it felt vindicating since many of the items listed coincide with many of the beliefs that I use to stay healthy.
The first similarity that all of the Blue Zone population share is that all of them keep moving. Even though many people are in their nineties, they walk up to two miles a day. They are also motivated to move by interests around their house, whether it being doing yard work or going into town. Just like how I said circulation is the most important factor in rejuvenating the body, an active lifestyle is an important piece of the Blue Zone daily ritual. This doesn’t mean jogging or competing in marathons, it just means not sitting still. All of the areas mentioned were also in hilly terrain, so this also plays into my importance of doing stairs to stay healthy.
Although all of the regions had a different way to relax, each of them made sure to do it once a day. While some pray, or take a nap, I start and end each day with breathing exercises to make sure I start AND end the day relaxed. Stress causes chronic inflammation and this is one of the biggest factors in age-related diseases.
Remember when I made a post about stopping eating before getting full? This point may have hit home, or you may have passed over it saying it was obvious. Either way, one of the essential rules for the blue zone is that they don’t get full when eating. The Japanese even have a 2500-year old Confucian mantra for it: Hara hachi bu. It literally means: Eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full. And if it’s been a known practice for over two millenniums, it must have some benefits. I didn’t even know about this aspect until I did more research on the Blue Zone. It made me feel justified that I mentioned it in a previous post.
Is meat a large part of your diet? Well, if you plan to live to one hundred, this may not be the best plan. Habitants of the Blue Zone consume a diet rich in legumes including black, lentil, fava, and soy. They only consume meat a handful of times a MONTH! This confirms two of my previous posts. The first being that I stay away from foods that are “hard to clean”. If you wouldn’t pour grease down the drain, why would you put it in your body? Also, for all of those who didn’t take to heart that it’s ok to eat carbs, please rethink it again since the Blue Zone inhabitants consumes a rich supply of beans. I’ve always felt that digesting meat is hard on the body. What the body needs is a balance of “clean” meats along with vegetables (especially beans) and fruits. And Just because legumes have more calories than other foods, it doesn’t mean they’re bad for you. They’re still an important part of maintaining a healthy body.
Habitants of the Blue Zone enjoy a glass or two of wine a day with a meal. It’s usually a red wine. As I mentioned before, while I don’t know if alcohol is overall healthy, red wine has shown to have some benefits. And if you didn’t comprehend it the first time reading, they enjoy it WITH a meal. I’m a big believer that drinking wine on an empty stomach is hard on the body.
This will be my last post for a few weeks. Next week is Labor Day Weekend and I’ll be taking a trip to Greece. And whether you’re outside experiencing the great outdoors or just relaxing at home, I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Labor Day Weekend!