Back in 2004, a few researchers, including National Geographic, set out to determine what parts of lifestyle and environment contributed to health and longevity. As a result of this goal, they identified five zones in the world with the highest number of individuals who reach the age of 100, also known as centenarians. These five zones also have some of the lowest rates of chronic disease, including cancer, and are now referred to as “Blue Zones”. In studying these populations, we’ve been able to distill commonalities in the diets and lifestyles they were leading, which ultimately contributed to their longevity.
Below are the 10 common dietary factors between all the Blue Zones, which we challenge you to try adopting to support your overall health and well-being.
- The 95/5 rule
- Aim to have up to 95% of your diet plant-based – this includes fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and beans.
- Limit meat
- Think of meat as a celebratory food, with portions no larger than a deck of cards, once or twice per week.
- Enjoy fish up to three times weekly – preferably salmon or smaller fish like sardines, trout, snapper, cod, and anchovies.
- Diminish dairy
- Avoid dairy when possible or keep it to ice cube size portions for flavouring foods.
- Daily dose of beans
- Aim for a cup of beans daily – tofu counts! Beans are high in protein and fibre and are a common staple in the Blue Zones diet.
- Slash sugar
- Reserve cookies, cakes, and candies for special occasions, and avoid foods with more than 8 grams of sugar.
- Snack on nuts
- Eat a handful of nuts daily. Variety is key so you don’t grow tired of them.
- Go whole grain
- Try to eat only 100% whole grain breads and carbohydrates, instead of white and refined grains.
- Choose whole foods
- Try to eat only single ingredient, whole foods, or packaged foods with fewer than 5 ingredients on the label.
- Drink mostly water
- Unsweetened teas and coffees can count towards this. Avoid all sugar-sweetened and diet sodas or juices.
For more information on Blue Zones and living for longevity, you can visit https://www.bluezones.com/.
Author: Danyelle Lachowich, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre Intern