First named in 2004 in the journal Experimental Gerontology, these Blue Zones have gained interest and popularity across the globe. The zones are Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, California.
But why do people in these regions live longer, healthier lives? What’s their secret? The answer seems to lie in a “plant slant” diet.
What is plant slant?
The concept of a “plant slant” diet was born from looking deeply at the world’s Blue Zones to see what they have in common.
The modern era certainly isn’t lacking in dietary protocols. The Blue Zone regions full of centenarians show that the plant slant has reliable, real-world evidence to back it up.
Beans, whole grains, and a variety of garden vegetables feature prominently in the plant slant approach. Processed foods are rare. Instead, the diet favors whole foods with little to no added ingredients.
Also, those eating a plant slant diet typically consume little to no meat regularly. That’s not to say it’s a vegetarian diet — it’s just about reconsidering how much of it you eat. Some recommend thinking of meat similar to sweets or condiments, meaning something you enjoy sometimes, but not always.
Here are a few key tips for leaning into the plant slant diet:
When moving to a plant slant diet, it’s natural to feel a slight learning curve, particularly for those used to a meaty or processed food-centric diet. Thankfully, there are great resources and well-designed recipe collections like “The Blue Zones American Kitchen Cookbook.”
What are the nine common traits of Blue Zones?
It’s not just a plant slant diet that makes these Blue Zones so special. In fact, each of these locations is vastly different from one another in terms of culture, cuisine, and environment. But Blue Zone communities share nine characteristics that may explain their citizens’ longevity:
A vibrant lifestyle with plenty of physical activity.
Knowing your purpose — your “why I get out of bed in the morning.”
Incorporating activities into daily life that help aid relaxation helps to reduce the physical impact of chronic stress.
The 80% Rule
An approach to dining that means stopping eating when one’s stomach is 80% full and eating the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
A plant slant diet
Favoring plant-based foods favoring beans (such as soy, fava, black, and lentils) and limiting meat intake to five times or fewer per month.
Wine at five
Enjoying one to two glasses of wine with friends or family is common.
A connection to a community — or a faith-based collective — adds to life expectancy.
Loved ones first
In blue zones, family plays an important role, including keeping aging family members close, building a deep relationship with a romantic partner, and investing time and love in children.
Obesity, loneliness, happiness, and habits such as smoking can be contagious, and being surrounded by the “right tribe” — a social network with similar values that supports healthy choices — favorably shapes behavior.