We probably don’t need to remind you that what you eat can certainly have an impact on aging—or that nutrition is an important foundation for our wellbeing in general, for that matter. But just to put a finer point on it, residents of Blue Zones (aka the regions of the world where people reportedly live particularly long, healthful lives) might serve as Exhibit A: While there are several habits that make up their longevity-driven lifestyles, the most consistent is the way they eat.
The five Blue Zones are located in Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California; Ikaria, Greece; and Okinawa, Japan. And though these regions obviously span different corners of the world, their diets are actually fairly similar in a few key ways. Below, we spell out four essential guidelines that might just inspire us to support healthy aging by way of nutrition.
Rule #1: Fill your plate with plant-based foods.
Interestingly, Dan Buettner (one of the leading researchers on Blue Zones, who popularized the term) has noted that beans are a pretty consistent cornerstone of Blue Zone diets—residents eat, on average, four times the amount of legumes than the average American. They’re definitely onto something, since beans are good sources of fiber, protein, and nutrients like iron, folate, and potassium. (1,2)
Those who live in longevity hotspots also get their daily fill of (seasonal) fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Meat isn’t completely off the table, but it’s eaten with much less frequency—only a handful of times per month. (1)