Foods Linked To Longevity
by Kristen Keen, MBA, RD, LDN
Last Updated: February 9, 2021
Have you ever wondered what foods individuals eat that live the longest? Anytime this topic arises, the blue zones come to mind. What are these blue zones, and how are they associated with foods linked to longevity? Let’s dive further into the blue zones and the foods associated with them.
National Geographic was one of the first to discuss the blue zones in the early 2000s. Blue zones are areas located worldwide where individuals are known to live the longest. The blue zone concept arose from blue circles drawn around towns and villages when Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain were researching high longevity within villages. Dan Buettner coined it “blue zone” when finding other similar areas.
Five areas around the world have been categorized as a blue zone. These areas include:
- Sardinia, Italy
- Icaria, Greece
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California (Seventh Day Adventists)
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
Nine commonalities were found amongst these five zones:
- moving naturally
- feeling of belonging
- finding purpose
- 80% rule
- plant slant
- wine at 5
- loved ones first
- finding your right tribe
The 80% rule focuses on understanding our body’s hunger cues – read more about hunger cues in this article, and to understand a little more about each habit, click here.
Now let’s dive into the food. There are some common denominators of certain foods each blue zone was consuming more of. These foods include:
- Proteins - Beans, Nuts, Seeds, & Fish - Choosing these specific proteins give us a boost of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Not to mention nuts, seeds, and fish also give us an extra dose of heart-healthy fats. Unlike their meat counterparts, these options are also low in saturated and trans fats (which can increase our risk of cardiovascular disease).
- Whole Grains (yes carbohydrates!) - When choosing grains, the blue zones focus on whole grains (wheat, barley, rye) and sourdough bread. These carbohydrate options offer fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Increasing fiber in the diet can help to reduce cholesterol, control blood glucose, and keep us feeling more satisfied, among many other benefits.
- Fruits & Vegetables - When choosing fruits and vegetables, the focus is on seasonality and variety. There are a few stand out fruits and vegetables that are consumed consistently. These include leafy greens, yams, bitter melon, sweet potatoes, beets, mushrooms, fennel, blueberries, açai, strawberries, pomegranates, and apples. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diets can help reduce our risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure, improve blood glucose, and a multitude of other benefits.
These blue zones aim for having a balanced diet that focuses on seasonality and variety. Shifting our focus to eating the right foods and developing a healthy relationship with food, improving our mental health and our environment is key to improving our everyday life. If you need some guidance on adding these foods into your eating pattern, reach out to one of our Kroger Health Dietitians.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.