Adopting Habits from the Blue Zones
Blue zones are specific areas of the globe where people live longer lives than anywhere else. In these places, it is not unusual to see centurions (people living over the age of 100). Not only do inhabitants of these zones live longer, but they tend to also live more healthfully, with more vitality, energy, and enjoyment in life.
The top five blue zones in the world are:
· Sardinia, Italy
· Ikaria, Greece,
· Okinawa, Japan
· Nicoya, Costa Rica
· Loma Linda, California
There is great diversity amongst these places. They are located in different countries, have different landscapes, and different ethnicities. However, when it comes to longevity, the blue zones seem to be onto something! They boast longer lifespans, lower rates of chronic diseases and cancer, and overall greater wellbeing.
What do the people of the Blue Zones have in common?
- They have a strong sense of community and people feel valued
- They enjoy active lifestyles
- They spend more time outdoors
- They eat whole food diets with plenty of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, and antioxidants
- Their diets are very low in sugar and processed foods of any kind
- They do not overeat
- They get enough sleep
Adopting habits from the blue zones
Get back to basics with your diet
Adopting a whole foods diet that is rich in fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, beans and legumes, organic meat and wild fish, healthy fats and oils, and probiotic-rich foods (fermented foods) is the first step to a healthier and longer life. Avoid foods that come in packages, foods with additives, and fast food.
Try: eating the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, the sky's the limit and always try to choose local and organic produce whenever possible. Incorporate legumes such as black beans, navy beans, chickpeas, lentils, organic and fermented tofu, miso, or tempeh, organic chicken or turkey, wild salmon, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, and fresh local herbs and spices.
Find an outdoor activity that you enjoy
There are many reasons to get outdoors. Fresh air, vitamin D from the sun, not to mention the emotional and psychological benefits that come from being in nature. People living in the blue zones spend more time outside in nature and so can you.
Try: going for a walk or hike, taking a bike ride, exploring a forest, or growing your own vegetable garden.
Daily exercise helps to increase positive mood, reduce stress, decrease inflammation, increase metabolism, and maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise also keeps the muscles and bones of the body strong as we age.
Try: walking, biking, yoga, qigong, swimming, aqua-fit, or group fitness.
Establish a healthy sleep routine
Getting enough sleep allows your body to function optimally. When we do not get enough sleep, our bodies cannot perform our daily tasks as well. We may experience a mental fog, irritability, fatigue, or excess hunger.
Try: getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Establish a calming bedtime routine that helps prepare your body for rest. This might include reading a book, meditating, enjoying a hot cup of herbal tea, taking a bath or quietly talking with your loved ones. Keeping the lights low and avoiding electronics at least 1 hour prior to sleep will also assist in a restful night sleep.
Make time for friends and family
The importance of community and connection is very strong within blue zones of the world. Having a sense of community helps to bring our lives a sense of purpose, provides us with love and security and promotes happiness. Having a support network of family or friends can greatly improve the longevity and satisfaction of life.
Try: spending more time with your family if they are nearby or join a group that participates in an activity you enjoy, host a monthly dinner party, or spend one night a week at home with your family in an electronic-free mode.
Stress is an underlying factor in many major diseases. In the blue zones, people generally experience less overall stress.
Try: meditation, yoga, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, and work to remove the causes of stress from your life. For example, if you have a relationship or friendship that causes you to stress, it may be time to resolve the conflict or let that person go from your life.
Rather than listing specific herbs, I recommend finding local herbs and medicinal plants which you can gather, grow, or purchase in your local area. There is something special and specific about using an herb or plant which is grown in your area. It may even be better suited to your body based on the local climate and environment.
The diets of the centurions of the blue zones are often high in probiotic-rich foods. In addition to eating fermented foods such as miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and kimchi, you may wish to supplement with a probiotic.
Try: a probiotic supplement daily with breakfast and plenty of water.
We know that centurions spend more time outdoors where they can make vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. In addition to increasing time outside, you may choose to supplement with vitamin D, particularly if you live in a climate with cold and dark winters.
Try: supplementing daily with vitamin D3 drops *get your blood levels tested prior to taking
Calcium and Magnesium
Support the healthy aging of bones and muscles in the body through your whole foods diet. Support can also come from supplementing with calcium and magnesium.
Try: a daily combination supplement that contains both calcium and magnesium in a 2:1 ratio. Take at the same time as your vitamin D.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. What we know from the blue zones is that their diets are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants fight oxidative stress and damage, promote health and longevity, slow the aging process, and strengthen our immune systems.
Try: a daily supplement of 1000-3000mg of vitamin C (or to bowel tolerance)
The B vitamins are especially important for fighting stress and helping the body adapt to change.
Try: a daily B-Complex vitamin.
No matter where in the world you live, implementing these recommendations can help you live a more healthful and longer life, as the centurions in the blue zones do.