Last year, a Japanese woman named Kane Tanaka, aged 116, was acknowledged as the world’s oldest living person by the Guinness World Records. It is rare that we see people over the age of one hundred here in the Maldives, but it is surprisingly common in some parts of the world – dubbed the Blue Zones.
Blue Zones are regions around the world that have been identified as places where people are the healthiest and live the longest. While genetics play a role in longevity, it can also be attributed to dietary habits and lifestyle. There seem to be similarities in the types of food consumed in the five Blue Zones across the globe, and to demystify longevity, we’ll take a look at their daily eating habits.
This island in Japan has been observed as a place where incidents of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer are lower than in the rest of the world. This is no surprise, given their nutritious diet. For instance, the sweet potato, which is a source of anti-inflammatory components and Vitamin A, is a staple in this region. Goya or bitter melon and tofu are also quite common. To get the necessary daily dose of antioxidants, Okinawans turn to turmeric tea, if not the usual green tea.
Nicoya, Costa Rica
The founder of Blue Zones surmises the secret of the Nicoyan diet as the “three sisters” of Meso-American agriculture: beans, corn and squash. Beans are a healthy source of protein that provide a myriad of benefits such as lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Nicoyans also consume corn on a daily basis in the form of tortillas, so they are also regular recipients of niacin or vitamin B3, an essential nutrient.
It can be said that the Ikarians have a taste for the finer things in life. They have their locally produced honey and olive oil, after all. Honey produced in Ikaria is considered to be particularly beneficial due to its unique geographical location and topography. People in this region also have an affinity towards herbs and herbal medicine. Home-grown herbs like chamomile (which boosts immunity and relieves stress) are used to make hot and cold teas.
Loma Linda, California, USA
The Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda, who are famous for their longevity, eat a mostly plant-based diet. Apart from fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of nuts (a source of important vitamins and minerals) are also a part of their diet. A lot of animal products tend to be considered “unclean”, and in addition to this, they also seem to refrain from unhealthy habits such as smoking.
Being located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, fish and other varieties of seafood feature heavily on the Sardinian menu. Next in popularity would be whole-grain breads. Lastly, unlike people in all the other Blue Zones, Sardinians seem to be thriving off certain sources of dairy, such as goat milk, which is easier to digest compared to traditional cow’s milk.
Of course, a great diet isn’t the only common denominator between people living in the five Blue Zones. They also practice other healthy eating habits such as following the 80% rule (stop eating when your stomach is 80% full), and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. Furthermore, they stay active through daily activities such as gardening or livestock farming, and try to lead a relatively stress-free life through various forms of mediation.
By Fathmath Sadha