What are the Blue Zones?
Blue Zones are the areas around the world where a higher-than-normal number of people live longer than the average life. In other words, these places house some of the oldest people across the globe. The term ‘Blue Zone’ was made popular by Dan Buettner, an author studying and analyzing places where people’s lives are exceptionally long.
These areas were referred to as ‘Blue Zones’ because, while searching for these areas, Buettner and his colleagues used a map and drew blue circles around those places.
Where are the Blue Zones?
In his book, titled ‘The Blue Zones, Buettner outlines five areas that are currently known as the Blue Zones:
- Icaria, Greece: The people of Icaria are popular for using a Mediterranean diet. This diet is primarily made up of homegrown vegetables, red wine, and olive oil.
- Ogliastra, Sardinia, Italy: The Ogliastrian region in Sardinia is renowned for having some of the world’s oldest males. Here, people reside in mountainous regions, usually work on farms, and consume significant quantities of red wine.
- Okinawa, Japan: While Ogliastra is home to some of the oldest men globally, Okinawa in Japan has an exceptionally old female population. Soy-based foods are common in this area, along with tai chi, a meditative exercise form.
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: Corn tortillas and beans form the basis of most Nicoyan diets. The residents of this area indulge in physical jobs well into their old age and are driven by a purpose of life that they call ‘plan de Vida.’
- The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, USA: The Seventh-day Adventists is a highly religious and spiritual group. They live in close communities and are strict vegetarians.
Facts About the Blue Zones
They Consume Whole, Plant-Based Foods
All Blue Zones have in common is that their residents consume diets that comprise almost entirely of plant-based foods. Even though very few groups are staunch vegetarians, almost all of them ensure that they do not consume meat more than five times every month. Plenty of studies have shown that reducing meat intake can lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and several other illnesses. Diets in the Blue Zone consist of the following:
- Whole grains
They Believe In The Importance Of Community
It is no secret that loneliness can lead significantly reduce your lifespan. While diet plays a key role in the health and longevity of the Blue Zone populations, the community is just as important. When you walk out that front door in these regions, you are bound to bump into somebody you know. The option to stay lonely does not exist in these places, and the impact of socialization is so much higher than we realize. According to Buettner, “We are genetically hardwired to crave social interaction, and, when you do not have it, there is a level of subconscious stress that grates away at you.”
They Have A Purpose
In the Blue Zone, people do not wake up and go about their day on autopilot. Their lives have purpose and meaning, and that is what keeps them motivated. These people do not have to worry about spending purposeless, worthless lives, and their physical and mental abilities are heavily invested in striving for their purposes.
Walking Is A Part Of Their Routine
Out of the five Blue Zones, three (Sardinia, Ikaria, and Okinawa) are situated in very narrow and steep areas. For a considerable amount of time, they did not have any access to industrial routes. Residing in a remote location spared them the corrosive attack of globalization. As a result, the people in these areas walk long distances uphill and downhill daily.
Buettner says that people should limit their use of cars and instead have a greater reliance on public transportation to encourage them to walk more. He says, “walking is one of the best forms of exercise, and you can do it without thinking about it.” If you are someone who finds it hard to step outdoors, Buettner recommends getting a dog.
They Use The 80% Rule.
They consume healthy foods, but they also consume them within healthy limits – limited intake of calories is another thing that is common to all Blue Zone communities. The 80% rule states that, as opposed to eating until you are too full even to walk, you should stop eating once you feel that your stomach is 80% full. This calorie deficit helps these communities maintain a healthy weight, steer clear of chronic diseases, and, ultimately, live a long and healthy life.
Besides, the Icarian community, which comprises orthodox Christians, has several fasting periods throughout the year. Studies have shown that fasting improves cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and BMI (Body Mass Index).
To summarize, the Blue Zones are not areas that have gained access to some magic pill that lets the people in these areas live longer and healthier. In fact, the reason behind their vitality and health has more to do with their lifestyles and environments.