Blue Zone Diet: How to live longer feel better

The following 11 simple rules for dieting reflect how the longest-lived people in the world ate to live for as long as they did. A review of the Blue Zones Meal Planner makes it simple to adopt the eating habits of the healthiest people in the world. You’ll discover thousands of recipe ideas that follow these healthy principles while also making plant-slant foods accessible and delicious. Live Longer, feel much Better by integrating just some of these healthy eating principles into your regular daily life. 

Go Plant-Based Diet 95-100%

People across the blue zones eat plenty of garden vegetables when those vegetables are in season. They also pickle and dry surplus vegetables to eat them during the off-season. The kings of longevity foods are leafy greens including kale, beet, and turnip tops, spinach, collards, and chard. Combine these leafy greens with whole grains, beans, and other seasonal fruits and veg to eat like someone from the blue zone all-year round. 

A number of oils are derived from plants, and these oils are much better for you than animal-based fats. We can’t say that olive oil is the only healthy oil derived from a plant, but it is the most popular one in the blue zones. Evidence suggests that consuming olive oil boosts good cholesterol levels while lowering bad cholesterol levels. In Ikaria in particular, middle-aged people consumed around six tablespoons of olive oil a day and reduced their risk of dying early by half. 

People from four of the five blue zone countries do eat meat, but they consume it sparingly. It is used more as a celebratory food or as a small side, as well as to add some flavor to a dish. Research suggests 30-year-old vegetarian Adventists are likely to outlive their meat-consuming compatriots by up to eight years. Increasing the amount of plant-based foods you eat also has several salutary effects. Consuming greens, beans, sweet potatoes and yams, fruits, nuts, and seeds is key. There’s nothing wrong with some whole grains too. Try out lots of different fruits and vegetables to get an understanding of the ones you like, and make sure you keep plenty of them in your kitchen. 

Eat Less Meat 

People in the blue zones eat an average of two ounces of meat – or less – around five times per month. There’s also no evidence that eating meat caused them to live any longer. The Adventist Health Study 2, which has monitored 96,000 Americans since 2002, found that vegans and pesco-vegetarians (vegetarians who eat small amounts of fish) lived the longest. While you might be tempted to eat chicken, pork, and beef as a celebratory food, we don’t recommend that you have it regularly with the Blue Zones Diet. Okinawans have brought us the best meat substitute around with extra firm tofu. Firm tofu is rich in protein and phyto-estrogens, which help in the battle against cancer. 

Throw the Fish Back 

If you have to eat fish, then try to consume less than three ounces less than three times a week. People in the Blue Zones do eat some fish, but it’s much less than you might expect; consuming just three small portions per week. There are many ethical and health concerns to be considered when eating fish. It makes sense that you choose fish that are abundant and not at risk of being overfished. Most people in the Blue Zones consume small, inexpensive fish like anchovies, cod, and sardines. They consume middle-of-the-food-chain fish that aren’t exposed to high amounts of mercury and PCB that are polluting the gourmet fish supply of today. 

Blue zone residents are careful to avoid overfishing, unlike corporate fisheries that are threatening to deplete entire fish species. Fishermen in the blue zones can’t afford the risk of potentially damaging the ecosystem that they are so dependent upon. Once again, fish isn’t a necessary part of a longevity diet. If you have to eat seafood, then go for common fish that aren’t at risk of being overfished. 

Decrease on Dairy 

Milk from cows isn’t a big part of the blue zone diet, except for some Adventists who consume it. The arguments against milk are mostly focused on how milk is high in fat and sugar. It’s estimated that around 60% of people are lactose intolerant to some degree, often without even realising it. Milk products from sheep and goats can be found in Ikarian and Sardinian diets. 

We’re not sure if it’s goat’s milk or sheep’s milk that makes people healthier, or if it’s climbing the hilly terrain that their goats do. It’s also interesting how they consume goat’s milk. It’s mostly fermented and consumed as sour milk, cheese, or yogurt rather than as liquid milk. While there is lactose in goat’s milk, it’s also rich in lactase; the enzyme that helps the body properly consume and process lactose. 

Reduce the Eggs 

People across the blue zone consume eggs between two and four times a week. They generally consume just one as a side dish with their plant-based or whole-grain dishes. Nicoyans will fry eggs and fold them into corn tortillas with beans on the side. Okinawans will boil them in soup. People across the Mediterranean will fry eggs as a side dish to have with bread, olives, and almonds for their breakfast. Blue zone eggs are sourced from free range chickens that consume natural foods and are free from antibiotics and hormones. These slowly-matured eggs contain more omega-3 fatty acids. 

People who suffer from diabetes should be careful about consuming egg yolks. Egg consumptions has been correlated to increased risk of prostate cancer for men, while it may causes kidney problems in women. Those with heart and circulatory problems should also be careful about egg consumption. Once again, eggs are not necessarily needed to live a longer life and they aren’t recommended. If you want to eat them though, you’re more than welcome to. Just try to consume less than three of them a week. 

A Better Life with Beans 

Aim to consume at least half a cup of cooked beans a day. Beans are king in the blue zone. The are the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world, not just in the blue zone. Black beans are favored in Nicoya, while lentils, white beans, and garbazo are big in the Mediterranean and soybeans are an Okinawan favorite. People across the blue zone consume an average of at least four times as many beans as Americans. 

The fact is that beans are the ultimate superfood. They are made up of – on average – 21% protein, 77% complex carbohydrates (the carbohydrates that provide a slow and steady energy release rather than a spike of energy like refined carbohydrates such as white flour), and a very tiny percentage of fat. Beans are also fantastic sources of fiber. They are cheap and versatile, come in a range of different textures, and have more nutrients per gram than most other foods on the planet. Beans are a staple part of every blue zone diet, with blue zone residents consuming an average of half a cup of beans per day. This should give you most of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Given that beans are so satisfying, they should also help you consume less unhealthy foods. 

Say Adios! to Sugar 

You should eat no more than 28 grams – around seven teaspoons – of sugar per day. People across the blue zone never eat sugar deliberately, whether by accident or habit. They get around the same amount of naturally-occurring sugars as Americans, but consume just a fifth as much added sugar, which works out at less than 7 teaspoons a day. It can be difficult to avoid sugar completely. It is found naturally in fruits and vegetables and milk. That’s not a problem though. 

The problem is that, between 1970 and 2000, the amount of sugar added to American food increased by 25%. That means that the average American consumes around 22 teaspoons of extra sugar hidden in soda, sauce, and yogurt. Consuming too much sugar has been shown to compromise immune systems. It also causes spikes in insulin levels, which leads to diabetes, affects fertility, makes you fat, and can shorten your life. 

We advise that, if you can’t live without sweets, then save baked goods, candy, and cookies for special occasions and make them part of meals. Reduce how much sugar you have in coffee, tea, and other foods to four teaspoons a day. Avoid any and all foods that list sugar among their first five ingredients. 

Nuts can be a Great Snack 

Get two handfuls of nuts in your diet a day. A handful of nuts will weigh around two ounces, which is the average amount consumed by blue zone centenarians. Almonds are popular in Ikaria and Sardinia, while pistachios are preferred in Nicoya and Adventists enjoy any and all nuts. The Adventist Health Study 2 discovered that nut eaters outlive those who don’t eat nuts by an average of two to three years. 

So, what’s the optimal mix of nuts? That would be; almonds (rich in vitamin E and magnesium), peanuts (high in folate B vitamins and protein), Brazil nuts (rich in selenium, a mineral shown to be effective at fighting prostate cancer), cashews (rich in magnesium), and walnuts (rich in alpha-linoleic-acid, the only omega-3 fatty acid found in plant-based foods). Walnuts, almonds, and peanuts are most likely to reduce cholesterol. 

Say No! to Bread – Unless It’s Sour 

You should only consume sourdough or pure 100% whole wheat bread. Bread in the blue zone is unlike the bread consumed by the average American. Most commercially-available breads are made with bleached white flour, which is quickly metabolized into sugar and causes insulin spikes. Blue Zone bread is either sourdough or whole grain, which have their own healthy characteristics. In Ikaria and Sardinia, for example, the breads are made from a variety of whole grains including wheat, rye, and barley. Each of these grains has their own spectrum of nutrients, including the amino acid tryptophan and minerals like magnesium and selenium. 

Whole grains are rich in fiber compared to wheat flours. Some traditional breads in the blue zone are made with lactobacilli, a naturally-occurring bacteria that “digests” the starches and gluten in bread while making it rise. The process creates the acid that causes sourdough to be “sour”. The finished bread has less gluten than even so-called “gluten-free” breads, complete with a longer shelf-life and a pleasantly sour taste that is enjoyed by many. Traditional sourdough breads can reduce the glycemic load of meals, meaning that the entire meal is healthier, easier on the pancreas, burns slower, and is more likely to use up calories as energy instead of storing them as fat. 

It’s about Whole Foods 

 You want to go for recognizable foods. People from blue zone countries eat plenty of whole foods. They don’t throw their egg yolks away when making egg-white omelettes, or get rid of the fat from their yogurt, or juice out the fiber-packed pulps from fruits. They also don’t add an extra ingredients that will change the nutritional profile of the foods they eat. Rather than take supplements, they get all they need from their nutrient-dense, fiber-rich whole food diet. 

The simplest definition of a “whole food” is something that is made from a single ingredient, ground, fermented, raw, cooked, and not processed. Tofu is a great example of a whole food as it is barely processed, if at all. Blue zone dishes will contain around half a dozen ingredients blended together. Almost every food consumed by centenarians in the blue zone are grown within ten miles of their home. They consume raw fruits and vegetables, they grind their whole grains by themselves, and cook them slowly. They ferment their tofu, wine, pickled vegetables, and sourdough bread to increase the bioavailability of nutrients. They will rarely, if ever, consume artificial preservatives. 

Water Water Water 

You should never drink soft drinks, and that includes diet soda. People in the blue zone primarily drink water, wine, coffee, and tea. Many centenarians in the blue zone had never even heard of soft drinks, which make up around half of sugar intake in America. There’s plenty of good reasons to consume these drinks. 

  • Water 

Adventists recommend drinking at least seven glasses of water a day. They point out how studies have shown that staying hydrated promotes proper blood flow and reduces the risk of blood clots. 

  • Coffee 

Ikarians, Nicoyans, and Sardinians all regularly consume coffee. Research has connected drinking coffee with a reduced risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. 

  • Tea 

Tea is a very popular drink in the bue zone. Okinawans are known to drink green tea all day long. Green tea has been proven to reduce the risk of developing cancer and heart disease. Ikarians drink rosemary, wild sage, and dandelion teas – all of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. 

  • Red Wine 

People who consume red wine – in moderation of course – tend to outlive people who don’t. That doesn’t mean that you should pick up a glass of red wine if you don’t drink it already. People in the blue zones drink between one and three glasses of red wine a day, typically with a meal or enjoyed with friends. 

The following 11 simple rules for dieting reflect how the longest-lived people in the world ate to live for as long as they did. The Blue Zones Meal Planner makes it easy to eat like the healthiest people in the world. You’ll discover thousands of recipes that follow these principles while also making plant-slant foods accessible and delicious. Live Longer, Better ® by adopting just some of these healthy eating principles into your regular daily life. 

  1. Eat a 95-100% Plant-Based Diet 

People across the blue zones eat plenty of garden vegetables when those vegetables are in season. They also pickle and dry surplus vegetables to eat them during the off-season. The kings of longevity foods are leafy greens including kale, beet, and turnip tops, spinach, collards, and chard. Combine these leafy greens with whole grains, beans, and other seasonal fruits and veg to eat like someone from the blue zone all-year round. 

A number of oils are derived from plants, and these oils are much better for you than animal-based fats. We can’t say that olive oil is the only healthy oil derived from a plant, but it is the most popular one in the blue zones. Evidence suggests that consuming olive oil boosts good cholesterol levels while lowering bad cholesterol levels. In Ikaria in particular, middle-aged people consumed around six tablespoons of olive oil a day and reduced their risk of dying early by half. 

People from four of the five blue zone countries do eat meat, but they consume it sparingly. It is used more as a celebratory food or as a small side, as well as to add some flavor to a dish. Research suggests 30-year-old vegetarian Adventists are likely to outlive their meat-consuming compatriots by up to eight years. Increasing the amount of plant-based foods you eat also has several salutary effects. Consuming greens, beans, sweet potatoes and yams, fruits, nuts, and seeds is key. There’s nothing wrong with some whole grains too. Try out lots of different fruits and vegetables to get an understanding of the ones you like, and make sure you keep plenty of them in your kitchen. 

  • Eat Less Meat 

People in the blue zones eat an average of two ounces of meat – or less – around five times per month. There’s also no evidence that eating meat caused them to live any longer. The Adventist Health Study 2, which has monitored 96,000 Americans since 20002, found that vegans and pesco-vegetarians (vegetarians who eat small amounts of fish) lived the longest. While you might be tempted to eat chicken, pork, and beef as a celebratory food, we don’t recommend that you have it regularly with the Blue Zones Diet. Okinawans have brought us the best meat substitute around with extra firm tofu. Firm tofu is rich in protein and phyto-estrogens, which help in the battle against cancer. 

  • Throw the Fish Back 

If you have to eat fish, then try to consume less than three ounces less than three times a week. People in the Blue Zones do eat some fish, but it’s much less than you might expect; consuming just three small portions per week. There are many ethical and health concerns to be considered when eating fish. It makes sense that you choose fish that are abundant and not at risk of being overfished. Most people in the Blue Zones consume small, inexpensive fish like anchovies, cod, and sardines. They consume middle-of-the-food-chain fish that aren’t exposed to high amounts of mercury and PCB that are polluting the gourmet fish supply of today. 

Blue zone residents are careful to avoid overfishing, unlike corporate fisheries that are threatening to deplete entire fish species. Fishermen in the blue zones can’t afford the risk of potentially damaging the ecosystem that they are so dependent upon. Once again, fish isn’t a necessary part of a longevity diet. If you have to eat seafood, then go for common fish that aren’t at risk of being overfished. 

  • Cut Down on Dairy 

Milk from cows isn’t a big part of the blue zone diet, except for some Adventists who consume it. The arguments against milk are mostly focused on how milk is high in fat and sugar. It’s estimated that around 60% of people are lactose intolerant to some degree, often without even realising it. Milk products from sheep and goats can be found in Ikarian and Sardinian diets. 

We’re not sure if it’s goat’s milk or sheep’s milk that makes people healthier, or if it’s climbing the hilly terrain that their goats do. It’s also interesting how they consume goat’s milk. It’s mostly fermented and consumed as sour milk, cheese, or yogurt rather than as liquid milk. While there is lactose in goat’s milk, it’s also rich in lactase; the enzyme that helps the body properly consume and process lactose. 

  • Less Eggs 

People across the blue zone consume eggs between two and four times a week. They generally consume just one as a side dish with their plant-based or whole-grain dishes. Nicoyans will fry eggs and fold them into corn tortillas with beans on the side. Okinawans will boil them in soup. People across the Mediterranean will fry eggs as a side dish to have with bread, olives, and almonds for their breakfast. Blue zone eggs are sourced from free range chickens that consume natural foods and are free from antibiotics and hormones. These slowly-matured eggs contain more omega-3 fatty acids. 

People who suffer from diabetes should be careful about consuming egg yolks. Egg consumptions has been correlated to increased risk of prostate cancer for men, while it may causes kidney problems in women. Those with heart and circulatory problems should also be careful about egg consumption. Once again, eggs are not necessarily needed to live a longer life and they aren’t recommended. If you want to eat them though, you’re more than welcome to. Just try to consume less than three of them a week. 

  • Life is Better with Beans 

Aim to consume at least half a cup of cooked beans a day. Beans are king in the blue zone. The are the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world, not just in the blue zone. Black beans are favored in Nicoya, while lentils, white beans, and garbazo are big in the Mediterranean and soybeans are an Okinawan favorite. People across the blue zone consume an average of at least four times as many beans as Americans. 

The fact is that beans are the ultimate superfood. They are made up of – on average – 21% protein, 77% complex carbohydrates (the carbohydrates that provide a slow and steady energy release rather than a spike of energy like refined carbohydrates such as white flour), and a very tiny percentage of fat. Beans are also fantastic sources of fiber. They are cheap and versatile, come in a range of different textures, and have more nutrients per gram than most other foods on the planet. Beans are a staple part of every blue zone diet, with blue zone residents consuming an average of half a cup of beans per day. This should give you most of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Given that beans are so satisfying, they should also help you consume less unhealthy foods. 

  • Say Sayonara to Sugar 

You should eat no more than 28 grams – around seven teaspoons – of sugar per day. People across the blue zone never eat sugar deliberately, whether by accident or habit. They get around the same amount of naturally-occurring sugars as Americans, but consume just a fifth as much added sugar, which works out at less than 7 teaspoons a day. It can be difficult to avoid sugar completely. It is found naturally in fruits and vegetables and milk. That’s not a problem though. 

The problem is that, between 1970 and 2000, the amount of sugar added to American food increased by 25%. That means that the average American consumes around 22 teaspoons of extra sugar hidden in soda, sauce, and yogurt. Consuming too much sugar has been shown to compromise immune systems. It also causes spikes in insulin levels, which leads to diabetes, affects fertility, makes you fat, and can shorten your life. 

We advise that, if you can’t live without sweets, then save baked goods, candy, and cookies for special occasions and make them part of meals. Reduce how much sugar you have in coffee, tea, and other foods to four teaspoons a day. Avoid any and all foods that list sugar among their first five ingredients. 

  • Nuts are a Great Snack 

Get two handfuls of nuts in your diet a day. A handful of nuts will weigh around two ounces, which is the average amount consumed by blue zone centenarians. Almonds are popular in Ikaria and Sardinia, while pistachios are preferred in Nicoya and Adventists enjoy any and all nuts. The Adventist Health Study 2 discovered that nut eaters outlive those who don’t eat nuts by an average of two to three years. 

So, what’s the optimal mix of nuts? That would be; almonds (rich in vitamin E and magnesium), peanuts (high in folate B vitamins and protein), Brazil nuts (rich in selenium, a mineral shown to be effective at fighting prostate cancer), cashews (rich in magnesium), and walnuts (rich in alpha-linoleic-acid, the only omega-3 fatty acid found in plant-based foods). Walnuts, almonds, and peanuts are most likely to reduce cholesterol. 

  • Put Down the Bread – Unless It’s Sour 

You should only consume sourdough or pure 100% whole wheat bread. Bread in the blue zone is unlike the bread consumed by the average American. Most commercially-available breads are made with bleached white flour, which is quickly metabolized into sugar and causes insulin spikes. Blue Zone bread is either sourdough or whole grain, which have their own healthy characteristics. In Ikaria and Sardinia, for example, the breads are made from a variety of whole grains including wheat, rye, and barley. Each of these grains has their own spectrum of nutrients, including the amino acid tryptophan and minerals like magnesium and selenium. 

Whole grains are rich in fiber compared to wheat flours. Some traditional breads in the blue zone are made with lactobacilli, a naturally-occurring bacteria that “digests” the starches and gluten in bread while making it rise. The process creates the acid that causes sourdough to be “sour”. The finished bread has less gluten than even so-called “gluten-free” breads, complete with a longer shelf-life and a pleasantly sour taste that is enjoyed by many. Traditional sourdough breads can reduce the glycemic load of meals, meaning that the entire meal is healthier, easier on the pancreas, burns slower, and is more likely to use up calories as energy instead of storing them as fat. 

  1. Eat Whole Foods 

 You want to go for recognizable foods. People from blue zone countries eat plenty of whole foods. They don’t throw their egg yolks away when making egg-white omelettes, or get rid of the fat from their yogurt, or juice out the fiber-packed pulps from fruits. They also don’t add an extra ingredients that will change the nutritional profile of the foods they eat. Rather than take supplements, they get all they need from their nutrient-dense, fiber-rich whole food diet. 

The simplest definition of a “whole food” is something that is made from a single ingredient, ground, fermented, raw, cooked, and not processed. Tofu is a great example of a whole food as it is barely processed, if at all. Blue zone dishes will contain around half a dozen ingredients blended together. Almost every food consumed by centenarians in the blue zone are grown within ten miles of their home. They consume raw fruits and vegetables, they grind their whole grains by themselves, and cook them slowly. They ferment their tofu, wine, pickled vegetables, and sourdough bread to increase the bioavailability of nutrients. They will rarely, if ever, consume artificial preservatives. 

  1. Drink Lots of Water 

You should never drink soft drinks, and that includes diet soda. People in the blue zone primarily drink water, wine, coffee, and tea. Many centenarians in the blue zone had never even heard of soft drinks, which make up around half of sugar intake in America. There’s plenty of good reasons to consume these drinks. 

  • Water 

Adventists recommend drinking at least seven glasses of water a day. They point out how studies have shown that staying hydrated promotes proper blood flow and reduces the risk of blood clots. 

  • Coffee 

Ikarians, Nicoyans, and Sardinians all regularly consume coffee. Research has connected drinking coffee with a reduced risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. 

  • Tea 

Tea is a very popular drink in the bue zone. Okinawans are known to drink green tea all day long. Green tea has been proven to reduce the risk of developing cancer and heart disease. Ikarians drink rosemary, wild sage, and dandelion teas – all of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. 

  • Red Wine 

People who consume red wine – in moderation of course – tend to outlive people who don’t. That doesn’t mean that you should pick up a glass of red wine if you don’t drink it already. People in the blue zones drink between one and three glasses of red wine a day, typically with a meal or enjoyed with friends.