For Longevity, Eat Like a Centenarian

April 29, 2015

Find out what the longest living people are eating here.

Blue Zone is a concept used to identify a demographic and or a geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives. In his 10-year project with National Geographic and the National Institute on Aging, longevity expert, Dan Buettner, identified pockets of the world where unusually high numbers of people were living into the triple digits. His latest book, The Blue Zones Solution examines the diets that have sustained some of the oldest living humans over the last century. There is a lot we can learn from them.

The five Blue Zones Buettner identified are: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Icaria, Greece; and the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.

So what do the centenarians eat? According to Buettner, they're eating a 90 percent plant based diet. It's also a high-carb diet, mostly coming from unprocessed foods like whole grains, corn, beans, sweet potatoes and other vegetables.

In Sardinia, olive oil and wild greens are eaten in abundance.

Okinawans rely on tofu and sweet potatoes for high nutrition.

People on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica eat plenty of squash and yams.

In Loma Linda, centenarians tend to avoid processed foods and eat lots of salmon and oatmeal.

In Icaria, Greece, of course the Mediterranean style, diet the centenarians drink teas of rosemary, sage and mint on a daily basis. Age-related dementia is nearly nonexistent.

Of course food doesn’t paint the entire picture of longevity as there are several other healthy lifestyle habits each of these groups have in common. Daily physical activity, a sense of purpose, slower pace of life, and strong family bonds all contribute. According to Buettner, "Having a strong sense of purpose is worth eight extra years of life expectancy. Having a social group with at least five friends you can count on on a bad day is worth about seven years of life expectancy." Moreover, longevity wasn't something individuals pursued, it was the outgrowth of having the right environment.

Having a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and eating seasonally (ask your produce manager what’s in season) will help you to eat more like a centenarian. It’s also just as important to realize that there are other lifestyle factors that contribute significantly to good health and longevity. Having a feeling of community is one of them. Even if it’s a food community, cultivating these relationships will benefit you in the long run!