In the longevity study, ‘The Danish Twins Study,’ researchers found that genetics decide only about 10% of how long the average person lives, the other 90% is dictated by our lifestyle. 
In other words, if you can find the optimal diet for your body, you can significantly improve your health and longevity. If only it were that easy.
On a 24/7 basis, we are constantly bombarded by new diet programs endorsed by celebrities and fitness gurus, who all claim to know the secret to the best diet. Eventually, this information overload causes confusion, anxiety and overwhelm.
Fortunately, research and insights into the diet of the healthiest people on the planet—those who live up to 100 years old—may help to clear this confusion and reduce overwhelm.
This diet is called the “Blue Zones Diet” and the insights from this could also help you find the best diet to achieve your health goals.
Let’s get started.
What are Blue Zones?
In 2004, longevity expert and National Geographic Fellow, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic to travel across the globe and identify the healthiest parts of the world.
At the end of their decade long research period, the explorers discovered five regions in the world, where people had the least health related diseases and lived the longest. These are called the ‘Blue Zones.’
During the research phase, scientists wanted to dig deeper to uncover why inhabitants within these communities lived happier, healthier and longer lives—up to 100 years old—longer than the rest of the world.
One of the key factors they discovered was that their environment i.e. physical items, architecture, terrain etc. helps them to make healthy decisions without thinking too much. You can read more about this in my previous article here.
Another major factor they discovered was the type of diet these people shared in common. This diet is also known as the ‘Blue Zones Diet.’
Best selling author and longevity expert, Dan Buettner, shares his findings from the decade of research in his book, The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living like the World’s Healthiest People.
The Blue Zones Diet
Buettner suggests that the average american could live an extra 12 years if they ‘optimize’ their lifestyle by eating a diet similar to the blue zones diet. 
The Blue Zones Diet was developed through the analysis of more than 150 dietary studies conducted in Blue Zones.
As a quick summary, here are some of the diets within different Blue Zones regions:
In Nicoya, Costa Rica, where there is the lowest rate of middle age mortality, 70% of the inhabitants diet consists of beans, squash and corn tortillas. The combination of these foods have complete proteins and contain all nine essential amino acids.
In Okinawa, Japan, where the longest living women on earth reside—an average of 90 years old—60% of their diet consists of sweet potato. Sweet potato is high in “beta carotene” a source of Vitamin A and it’s also packed with antioxidants as well.
In Sardinia, Italy, where the longest living men on earth reside, men drink up to 1-2 glasses a day of Cannonau Wine. The antioxidants and flavonoids within the wine may help promote their heart health.
In Loma Linda, California, the Seventh Day Adventists eat a “biblical diet” which consists of slow-cooked oatmeal, beans and nuts. These food items are high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants which may help in reducing risk factors for heart disease.
In the book, the Blue Zones solution, Dan Buettner also recommends some of the following guidelines based on the Blue Zones diet:
- 95% of your food items should be plant-based.
- Stop eating when 80% full.
- Eat a half cup of beans daily.
- Eat your largest meal at breakfast and your smallest at dinner.
- Snack on a handful of nuts daily.
- Cook majority of your meals at home.
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The Blue Zones Diet Food List
Within the Blue Zones Solution, there is an in-depth list of food items for the Blue Zones diet. Here are the best of the longevity foods to include in your daily meals:
Blue Zones Diet: Best foods.
- Beans (all kinds)
- Greens (spinach, kale, chards, beet tops, fennel tops, collards)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Nuts ( all kinds: almonds, cashews)
- Olive Oil (extra-virgin)
- Oats (slow-cook or Irish steel-cut)
- Fruits (all kinds)
- Green or Herbal teas
- Turmeric (spice or tea)
Blue Zones Diet: Foods to minimize.
- Meat (at most 2 times per week, daily fish intake required)
- Dairy (limit as much as possible)
- Eggs (at most 3 eggs per week)
- Sugar (limit as much as possible )
- Bread (100% whole wheat are okay)
Blue Zones Diet: Foods to always eat.
- 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Blue Zones Diet: Foods to always avoid.
- Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
- Salty Snacks
- Processed Meats
- Packaged Sweets
You can read more about the Blue Zones Diet in the book, Blue Zones Solution (Audiobook).
The Blue Zones Diet Lifestyle
According to Dan Buettner, none of the 100 plus year old people he interviewed had a ‘diet’ or exercise program. Instead, they lived in an environment that was designed to make the healthiest decision, the easiest choice. In other words, healthy living is a lifestyle not an activity.
The problem isn’t that we don’t know what a healthy diet looks like. It’s that we spend a lot more time thinking about the next diet plan to try out, more so than how well designed our environment is to make healthy choices easier.
A small decision such as moving your unhealthy food items out of eyesight or leaving a bowl of apples on your kitchen counter, could be the difference between another 10 pounds of weight gain or loss—or, another 1 year of your life gained or lost.
The Blue Zones Diet is a guideline of what to eat for a healthy, long-lived life. It’s not a short-term fix or a typical ‘diet’ plan you can jump on and off.
The Blue Zones Diet is a lifestyle. It is a lifelong decision to eat better for a life lived longer.
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- Herskind A, McGue M, Holm N, Sørensen T, Harvald B, Vaupel J (1996) The heritability of human longevity: a population-based study of 2872 Danish twin pairs born 1870–1900.
- Dan Buettner Blue Zones Diet interview with Fox News.