You could say that folks who live in Blue Zones are winning at life. It’s not unusual for some residents of Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece, to live upwards of 100 years.
And while it’s their holistically-minded lifestyle that accounts for their centenarian reputation, their diets are a major, major part of that.
The Longevity Plan author John Day, MD, has lived among various Blue Zone populations, and he says that their “keep it simple” approach to nutrition accounts for why they thrive. “The key to healthy eating is really quite simple,” says Dr. Day. “As I counsel my cardiac patients every day, if they can just do three things, then they are 90 percent of the way to a healthy diet and a healthy weight.” No surprise here: those three things happen to appear in the Blue Zones nutritional guidelines.
Below, Dr. Day breaks down the trifecta of food tenets straight from the happiest, healthiest people inhabiting this planet called Earth.
3 healthy eating habits of Blue Zone lifestyle-gurus
1. MINIMIZE ADDED SUGAR INTAKE
“There is absolutely no health benefit from eating added sugars,” says Dr. Day. “Added sugars only dramatically increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.” Not to add insult to injury, but the sweet stuff’s also not great for your gut or your anxiety levels, so try your best to stick with no more than 25 grams of added sugars per day.
Check out these low-sugar brownies:
2. CHOOSE WHOLE FOODS OVER PROCESSED FOODS
This isn’t a surprise to anyone, but processed foods aren’t all-stars for your health. In fact, a 2019 study found that people who were allowed to eat processed and ultra-processed food at 508 calories more each day than those who could only eat whole foods. “As with added sugars, there is absolutely no health benefit from fake foods: processed, prepared, and fast foods,” says Dr. Day. These foods are full of sugar, unhealthy oils, and salt which also lead to weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”
3. TRIPLE YOUR VEGGIE INTAKE, FOCUSING ON CRUCIFEROUS AND LEAFRY GREEN VARIETIES
“Natural whole vegetables are the key to health, healing, and preventing cardiovascular disease. These non-starchy vegetables will lower your blood pressure, scrub your arteries clean, and will help you to maintain a healthy weight,” says Dr. Day. Make your refrigerator look like a rainbow threw up, and you’ve already taken a giant step forward on your health journey (Blue Zones-style).
Always, always buy this produce organic:
Eating ugly vegetables can change the way you think about food. And, if you’re curious how people eat in other countries, here’s a look at 6 healthy plates from around the world.