Blue Zones are regions around the world where people tend to live longer, healthier lives with a higher likelihood of reaching 100 years of age. These regions have garnered significant attention from researchers and health experts due to their remarkable longevity and well-being. While there are unique cultural and environmental factors in each Blue Zone, there are commonalities and lifestyle traits that contribute to the longevity of the residents in these areas.
- Ikaria, Greece.
- Okinawa, Japan.
- Sardinia, Italy (Ogliastra Region).
- Loma Linda, California.
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.
- Diet Rich in Plant-Based Foods: Blue Zone residents typically follow a plant-centered diet. They consume plenty of vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Their diets are often low in processed foods, sugar, and meat. Blue Zone populations often eat traditional, locally-sourced foods, which tend to be nutritionally rich and free from processed ingredients. These populations tend to practice calorie restriction to some extent, meaning they don’t overeat. They eat until they’re satisfied but not to excess. Note: Many of the listed Blue Zone locations use regenerative gardening and are void of most pesticides and herbicides found in many American produced foods, and plants are grown in more naturally fertile soil. This is why you may hear someone that has a grain-intolerance here in America, travel to a country abroad and eat the local cuisine without any issues. Take caution in deciding what the best approach is when it comes to food. An Elimination Diet can help determine what foods will best suite your lifestyle and health.
- Social Engagement and Strong Family Bonds: Strong social connections and a sense of community are crucial in Blue Zones. Residents maintain close relationships with family and friends, providing emotional support and a sense of belonging. Blue Zone residents have a strong sense of purpose and feel that they belong to a community with shared values and traditions. Multi-generational households and close-knit families are common in Blue Zones. Older family members are respected and often provide wisdom and guidance.
- Physical Activity: Blue Zone residents engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity. They walk, garden, and perform daily tasks that keep them moving without the need for formal exercise routines. Note: These communities are often moving and will perform physical labor throughout the day. The modern American way of living relies on vehicles to travel, grocery stores for food and sedentary jobs. In most cases, this is the reality of our modern world. But keep this in mind as you go throughout your day. Ask yourself; can you can walk to get where you’re going? Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Are there any physical labor tasks you can perform around your house, such as yardwork? Functional movement is vital to longevity. Move as often as possible!
- Stress Reduction and Spiritual Practices: Stress management techniques like mindfulness, prayer, or relaxation rituals are common in Blue Zones. Reducing stress contributes to lower rates of chronic disease. Many Blue Zone communities have strong religious or spiritual beliefs, which can provide a sense of purpose, comfort, and community. Note: The Blue Zone communities practice in-person interactions. They spend minimal time in front of screens such as phones and televisions. They will use this time to practice the activities listed above and hold face to face conversations. You can implement stress reduction by performing a ‘Digital Detox’ and limiting your screen time. Focus on slowing down your breathing and enjoy moments of peace and quiet. Try meditation and/or prayer in these quiet moments. Take a moment to utilize your senses (sight, sound, touch, smell and taste), and enjoy quality uninterrupted time with friends and family.
- Low Alcohol Consumption: While some Blue Zone regions have alcoholic beverages as part of their culture, alcohol is typically consumed in moderation. They will typically make their own wine with locally sourced grapes and very minimal additives. Smoking rates also tend to be low in Blue Zones, reducing the risk of tobacco-related diseases. Note: The majority of the commercially produced wine contains harmful elements such as arsenic and mycotoxins. Consume minimally and consume responsibly. Consider an organic and quality manufacturer such as wines found at www.dryfarmwines.com.
- Environmental Factors: Walkable communities and natural environments that encourage physical activity, sunlight, fresh air and additional movement contribute to the overall well-being in Blue Zones. Note: Our body requires a certain amount of natural sunlight throughout the day. Try to get outside as much as possible. Americans are averaging less time outside each year. Go outside and enjoy the sunlight in its various stages throughout the day. Morning, afternoon and evening sunlight all have their own unique benefits to our bodies – such as circadian rhythm, vitamin D production, improved mood from increased serotonin and strengthened immune system. You can still benefit from the sun on cloudy and cold days. Don’t let that stop you from going outside!
We live in a world that has gotten away from theses common practices of the Blue Zones. The way Blue Zone communities live, is how humans were generally living for thousands of years before modern advancements. Most of our ‘conveniences’ have made our lives much easier and can prove to be very beneficial in the right context. But keep in mind that it may also be taking away from living a healthier and more fulfilled life. Try to add some of these practices into your daily routine. Meet up with old friends. Put the phone away and go take a walk. Cook your food. Shop at Farmer’s Markets or grow your own food. Find purpose and laugh.
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