Eat your way to 100: What we can learn from the world’s longevity hotspots


There’s an outdated, type of cheesy, Dennis Leary joke that pops into my head once I take into consideration wellness.

“It’s all very properly maintaining a healthy diet, so you possibly can reside longer,” he says, in that raspy, cocky drawl of his. “However who desires to reside to 100 if the final 20 years are spent getting your nappy modified?”

Dwell quick, die younger, and depart a ruggedly good-looking corpse – that’s the Leary manner.

National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner, who coined the term Blue Zones, living his best life with some of his students.

LAYNE KENNEDY/Getty Pictures

Nationwide Geographic explorer Dan Buettner, who coined the time period Blue Zones, residing his finest life with a few of his college students.

Properly, I’m too outdated to die younger, (or reside quick for that matter). Today, I’m extra all for choice B: residing contently, dying actually, actually outdated – historical even – and leaving a barely saggy corpse. In keeping with advocates of the Blue Zone way of life, that’s not simply an admirable aim, it’s an achievable one.

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* A run a day keeps the doctor away


No, I’m not describing the three suburban blocks round Judith Collin’s home.

In a 2008 story for NatGeo, Nationwide Geographic explorer-turned longevity professional Dan Buettner​ used the time period to explain in any other case unrelated areas of the world that, statistically, produce the longest lived folks – typically residing as a lot as twice the nationwide common for the nation the zone belonged to.

He described communities in Okinawa, Japan, residence of the world’s longest lived women; Sardinia, Italy, the place household, arduous work and good meals go hand in hand; and Loma Linda, California, the place a group of vegetarian Christians lives, on common, 10 years longer than the remainder of the US.

He and his staff would go on to provide Nikoya, Costa Rica, the place older people commonly work bodily jobs longer and Ikaria, Greece, with its whole-food-rich Mediterranean food plan; blue ticks too.

Family is a crucial part of life on Okinawa, where this father and son duo live.

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Household is a vital a part of life on Okinawa, the place this father and son duo reside.

Whereas the super-centenarian (individuals who reside previous 100) claims for a few of these spots are contentious – one non-peer reviewed study from Australia suggests it’s not possible to substantiate the acute ages of some people included within the Blue Zone proof – it’s clear that these are locations the place folks reside wholesome, energetic lives longer.

The very fact they arrive from distant corners of the planet suggests, whereas genetics do play a component in longevity, they’re not the primary standards for busting 100. Way of life has a major half to play.

In his best-selling ebook, The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, he explains it’s not only a cracking food plan and a win within the genetic crap shoot that determines longevity.

In Sardinia, food is often fresh, seasonal and prepared at home to be shared together.

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In Sardinia, meals is usually contemporary, seasonal and ready at residence to be shared collectively.

It’s a selected lifestyle that features a plant-based food plan, satisfactory relaxation, common train, robust group ties and a well-developed sense of function.

Seems, every little thing Nana tried to inform you about residing is likely to be true.


The Blue Zone community gives longevity and happiness checks that allow you to can measure your self in opposition to the standards recognized by Buettner and his staff.

The results of my test made for sobering reading.


The outcomes of my take a look at made for sobering studying.

The questions cowl every little thing from how typically you’re offended, to how a lot train you get.

One in all my favourites asks whether or not you personal a canine – I at all times knew it was a scientific indisputable fact that residing with a canine makes you a greater individual.

Whereas I’m lucky sufficient to come back from extremely long-lived folks – three of my grandparents made it to their 90s, one continues to be going robust – my outcomes counsel I’ve been wanting that genetic present horse within the mouth.

Gently, they inform me I might reside to be 96.9 years outdated, if I make just a few “small adjustments”, however the way in which I roll now, my life expectancy is 82, a 12 months beneath the nationwide common for Pākehā girls in NZ.

The traditional Mediterranean diet, high in fruits and vegetables, good oils and wholegrains, is thought to be a factor in Sardinia’s good legevity stats.


The normal Mediterranean food plan, excessive in fruit and veggies, good oils and wholegrains, is regarded as a consider Sardinia’s good legevity stats.

Worse than that, they reckon solely be wholesome until I’m 74. Every part after that’s Denis Leary’s nappy time.

Hitting a button that asks if I wish to add 14.9 “good years” unfurls a really lengthy, detailed listing of how I might be treating myself higher. It makes for sobering studying.


From the Blue Zone perspective, what we consider as trendy life – individualism, materials wealth, consuming on the run, working all of the hours, watching hours of TV; the I, Me, Mine mentality – is pushing us to an early, sad grave.

And but, it’s arduous to think about New Zealand altering.

“It is in all probability not sensible for us proper now,” says diet and well being author Niki Bezzant.

“The meals cultures in these locations are very removed from the meals tradition that now we have right here. Now we have tremendous excessive charges of weight problems, now we have rising charge of diabetes. Like most Western nations, we have the identical issues.”

Whereas Kiwis basically reside lengthy, we do not essentially reside properly – there’s a gulf between our well being expectancy, and life expectancy – and even then, not all of us reside have such good longevity outcomes.

In keeping with Stats NZ, the typical life expectancy for Kiwi males is 80 years, for ladies, it is 83.5. For Māori, life expectancy for ladies is 77.1 years, for males, it is 73 years, on common.

It’s considered one of a number of unacceptable well being disparities between Pākehā and Māori that health model Te Whare Tapa Whā search to deal with – a well being mannequin that has rather a lot in frequent with the Blue Zone way of life in its holistic strategy.


“What Blue Zones are, are conventional cultures, the place folks have sure patterns of behaviour and consuming, that basically encourage good well being for a very long time,” says Bezzant.

“There’s tons we are able to be taught from these ideas.”

First amongst them is a deal with plant-based diets, which implies flipping our thought of what an excellent meal appears to be like like.

Blue Zone cultures aren’t all vegetarian, however they’ve diets excessive in plant-based meals – legumes, entire grains, greens and fruit – in frequent

“It is about shifting the main target away from meat. I believe if we might take one factor away, that may be good.”

The way in which to do this is to plan the greens first.

Ikarian longevity pancakes, made with fresh green herbs - the Greek island's traditional focus on fresh, seasonal, plant-based foods could be a factor in how long the residents live.

PHG Footage/Getty Pictures

Ikarian longevity pancakes, made with contemporary inexperienced herbs – the Greek island’s conventional deal with contemporary, seasonal, plant-based meals might be a consider how lengthy the residents reside.

“Ask what plant-based meals are going to be on this plate, then take into consideration the meat. It’ll change the stability of what you have got in your plate, and it will be more healthy general.”

It’s additionally about sharing that meals with folks you’re keen on and join with.

“Having robust group bonds, and having a cause to stand up within the morning, a function, is de facto essential for psychological wellbeing. So it is smart that that may assist us really feel higher as we grow old.

“That concept of conscious consuming, taking time over getting ready your meals, taking time to sit down down and savour the meals, ideally within the firm of others, that makes a very massive distinction.”

It is giving meals significance in your life, “as a result of it deserves significance, it nourishes us and provides us energy and well-being”.

“There’s proof that individuals who do sit down and have dinner collectively as a household typically are typically more healthy, the youngsters will eat extra greens, and so they get psychological well being advantages as properly from doing that. It’s win-win.”



Frequent bodily exercise is constructed into the day by day lives of parents in Blue Zones, with some on their toes all or many of the day.

Attempt utilizing a standing desk at work or taking frequent brief walks to interrupt up your workplace day. Take up gardening, or get vigorous along with your home tasks.


Folks in Blue Zone cultures say they’ve a robust sense of function, whether or not it’s of their work or their social and household life.

Take into account attending a church or group group that shares your values, or discover a manner volunteer your time to a trigger that’s significant to you.


Blue Zone residents have been proven to get a minimum of 7 hours sleep an evening.

Make you sleep time a precedence, and find ways to get yourself the best sleep possible.


Blue Zone cultures typically use contemporary, native, seasonal produce, and see consuming as household and group time.

Take into account switching to a plant-based food plan and making a dedication to consuming dinner collectively as a household a minimum of a couple of times per week. Make extra banquet plans with associates and prolonged household.


Household and group are on the coronary heart of every little thing Blue Zone cultures do.

Discover methods to construct stronger connections with members of the family, and your wider group. Attain out to your neighbours, and reconnect with outdated associates.

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