Nutritional secrets of the world’s longest-living people

Nutritional secrets of the world’s longest-living people

by Carol Penfield, M.S., Nurse Practitioner

Dan Buettner, National Geographic fellow, identified 5 areas of the world where people live to the age of 100 and lead fulfilling lives.  He called these locations “Blue Zones”.  He continued to work with researchers and dietitians to identify their dietary and daily practices that contributed to their unique longevity.  Here is a brief summary:

  • Okinawa, Japan: Home of the world’s longest-lived women. Their dietary habits include; sweet potato, brown rice, turmeric, vegetables, seaweed and tofu. Dairy and meat (primarily pork) represented only 3 percent of their caloric intake as well as minimal sugar and salt.
  • Sardinia, Italy: Mountainous highlands with the highest concentration of centenarian men. They typically consumed meat and dairy from sheep or goats. Flat and sour dough bread, grains (mostly barley), chick peas, tomatoes, almonds and local red wine.
  • Loma Linda, California: 7th Day Adventists who live ten more HEALTHY years than the average American. Their diet consists of mostly fruits and vegetables (avocados), salmon, nuts, beans, oatmeal, soy milk, and whole wheat bread.
  • Ikaria, Greece: An island off the coast of Turkey, with the lowest rate of dementia and middle-age mortality. Their diet varied from the typical Mediterranean diet with emphasis on potatoes, legumes, wild greens, fruit, lemon juice and small amounts of fish.
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The lowest rate of middle-age mortality and 2nd highest concentration of male centenarians. Their dietary choices include corn soaked in lime and ground into corn meal, squash, papayas, yams, bananas, black beans and rice.

There is more to living a long healthy life than just the food you eat.  These “blue zone” populations also moved naturally, had a sense of community with deep social networks, valued friends and their elders, rested, had a sense of purpose and faith, and gardened.

It is not just about what to eat but also notice what these communities did NOT eat.  They had minimal sweets, salt, processed foods, dairy or animal protein.

Are there ways that you can improve your diet? Eating and living like the world’s healthiest people is not just about adding years to your life, but about adding life to your years.

You can learn more from Dan Buettner’s book, “The Blue Zone Solution”.

Carol Penfield M.S., Nurse Practitioner, specializes in Lifestyle Medicine and is accepting new patients into her practice at Emerald Physicians beginning mid-May.