Living the Blue Zones way, be a healthy centenarian

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In 2008, Dan Buettner wrote a book and put together 5 interesting places (Figure 1) famous for their longevity. Studies have reported that these places contain relatively high rates of centenarians who live over 90 and 100. These places are named The Blue Zones.

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Loma Linda, United States
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece

In this article, we will look into each of this place, find out what are their secrets for longevity.

Blue Zones book by Dan Buettner
5 places of Blue Zones
Figure 1: Five places in the Blue Zones

Okinawa, Japan

  1. Practise Hara Hachi Bu (80% rule), meaning eat until 80% full.
  2. Diet low in animal protein.
  3. High in vegetables, sweet potatoes, grains, legumes.
  4. High consumption of tea (green tea and kohencha).
  5. Consume miso, kombu, soy sauce, salted fish, pickled vegetables.

Sardinia, Italy

  1. Diet low in animal protein.
  2. High in vegetables and legumes.
  3. Drink red wine in moderation.
  4. Consume ricotta cheese, goat and sheep milk.
  5. Consume sourdough and whole grain bread
  6. Eat a lot of chestnuts and walnuts.

Loma Linda, California

  1. Mostly vegetarian diet.
  2. For non-vegetarian, their diet is low in animal protein.
  3. Lots of nuts.
  4. Do not smoke and drink alcohol.
  5. Exercise regularly.

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

  1. Plant-based diet.
  2. High consumption of coffee.
  3. Do not use vegetable oil.
  4. Do not eat processed and refined foods.

Ikaria, Greece

  1. Periodic fasting.
  2. Abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes.
  3. Diet low in animal protein, except fish.
  4. Drink herbal tea, coffee and red wine (moderation).
  5. Consume goat’s milk, cheese, and olive oil.
  6. Eat sourdough.


Putting their lifestyle and diet in comparison (Figure 2), you can see that they share some common characteristics:

  • Drink tea, coffee, and red wines which are high in flavonoids and antioxidants.
  • Consume mostly plant-based diet, only eat meat occasionally. Fish and eggs are their alternative sources of protein.
  • Legume, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits are commonly consumed.
  • Consume healthy fats from nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, olive oils and fish.
  • Engage in moderate physical activity as part of their daily routine.
Comparison of Blue Zones
Figure 2: Summary of lifestyles and diets in Blue Zones.

You too can make your blue zone

Dan Buettner concluded 9 lessons of lifestyle and diet that are essential of those living in the Blue Zones. You can also adopt most, if not all, of these lifestyles and diets and create your own Blue Zone:

  1. Avoid sedentary. Build in more physical activity as part of your daily routine (e.g. walking, gardening, climbing stairs)
  2. Eat until you’re 80% full or practise intermittent fasting. There is a difference between feeling full and not feeling hungry.
  3. Consume vegetarian diet with fresh vegetables, beans, fruits and whole grains. Meat should only be consumed in small amounts. Avoid processed and refined foods.
  4. Drink wine in moderation (1-2 glasses of red wine daily) with meals.
  5. Manage stress and get enough sleep (or daytime nap) so that your body get to recharge.
  6. Identify your purpose in life. It gives you meaning, makes you feel valued and happier.
  7. Be part of a spiritual community to feel your presence and improve your well-being.
  8. Live with older and younger family members, and give priority to your family.
  9. Build a healthy and supportive social network, and be surrounded by close friends.


Because of modernisation and influence of unhealthy lifestyle habits, some of these places are no longer keeping the record of the longest living people. Nonetheless, their wisdoms and lifestyles that bring about longevity are still important lessons for us in today’s world.


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