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In 2005, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, and a team of demographers and researchers identified five areas around the world with the highest concentration of centenarians. They coined the term “blue zones” to describe these five regions. While our global life expectancy is around 72 years old, people in the blue zones are living healthy, happy lives to at least 100 years old!
How do people in blue zones live to be 100? Do genes determine our lifespans? In a study published on longevity and genetics, “it is estimated that about 25 percent of the variation in human life span is determined by genetics.” This suggests that our environment and lifestyle may impact the other 75 percent.
Blue zones are located in all parts of the world, from Europe and Latin America to Asia and North America.
“This island eight miles off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea has some of the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia. Research links their increased longevity with their traditional Mediterranean diet, which is heavy in vegetables and healthy fats and contains smaller amounts of dairy and meat products.”
“Okinawa is home to the world’s longest-lived women. Food staples, like Okinawan sweet potatoes, soybeans, mugwort (leafy greens), turmeric, and goya (bitter melon), keep Okinawans living long and healthy lives.” Common practices and traditions that increase longevity include “hara hachi bu,” which means eating until 80 percent full, and “moai.” Moai is a social circle of five friends committed to supporting each other for life.
“The mountainous highlands of this Italian island boast the world’s highest concentration of centenarian men. Its population consumes a low-protein diet associated with lower rates of diabetes, cancer, and death for people under age 65.”
“In this region of Central America, residents have the world’s lowest rate of middle-age mortality and the second-highest concentration of male centenarians. Their longevity secret lies partly in their strong faith communities, deep social networks, and habits of regular, low-intensity physical activity.”
“This community has the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the United States, and some residents live 10 more healthy years than the average American by following a biblical diet of grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables.”
A team of researchers found nine evidence-based common denominators for longevity.
As you consider these nine lessons, think about what practice you can add to start increasing your longevity and happiness. Whether it’s reaching out to friends, increasing more plant-based foods, adding movement, or spending more time with loved ones, you can’t go wrong. Wishing you longevity, health, and happiness!
Tip: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try the Blue Zones test to evaluate areas to get started with.
Note: We are not affiliated with the blue zones project. This information is for educational purposes only.
Sherene ChouSherene is a culinary-trained Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for NutriBullet focused on making delicious plant-based eats sustainable and accessible for all. She believes that food cultures and traditions should be celebrated and incorporated as part of living a happy and healthy life. When she’s not learning about a new ingredient or food at her local farmers market, you can find Sherene teaching food justice and culinary nutrition to health professionals nationwide.