Diet Plan Information: Blue Zone Diet

Blue Zone Diet Plan


What is the Blue Zone Diet?

The Blue Zone Diet is one that is primarily vegetarian with 95 percent of daily caloric intake coming from plants. In many ways, it’s very similar to the Mediterranean diet plan in that it’s a whole food diet and vegetarian-based.

While people on the Blue Zone diet eat very limited meat, they also tend to get enough sleep, practice intermittent fasting, and have an active lifestyle. “Scientific exploration has shown some basic factors as being behind a long lifespan: a plant-based diet; regular, low-intensity activity; an investment in family; a sense of faith; and purpose” (Mishra, 2009).


What is a Blue Zone?

A Blue Zone is an area or region in the world where people tend to live the longest and have the lowest rates of diseases (cardiovascular issues, cancer, obesity, and/or diabetes). The term “Blue Zone” was first coined by author Dan Buettner in his book called The Blue Zones. Buettner described five Blue Zones in his book:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Icaria, Greece
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California
  • Sardinia, Italy

These areas all have exceptionally high rates of people living well into their 90s or even to over 100 years old. In his book, Buettner tried to determine why these people live so much longer than people in other regions of the world.


How Did Blue Zones Get Their Name?

In the Journal of Experimental Gerontology, researchers Pes and Poulain drew concentric blue circles on the map in those areas where the people lived the longest. Buettner built upon this, finding more hotspots of longevity and calling them Blue Zones.


What Can You Eat on the Blue Zone Diet?

The Blue Zone diet focuses primarily on vegetarian foods although you are able to eat small amounts of fish as well. In general, you want to get 95 percent of your daily caloric intake from plants or plant-based foods.

  • Fruits (mangoes, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, avocados, lemons, limes, oranges, bananas)
  • Vegetables (mushrooms, spinach, swiss chard, kale, lettuce, sweet potatoes, carrots, artichokes, turnips, asparagus, cauliflower)
  • Whole Grains (wild rice, brown rice, whole wheat bread, oats, barley)
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts)
  • Healthy Fats (olive oil, omega-3s)
  • Legumes (black beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, peas, lentils)
  • Beverages (water, coffee, tea)
  • Limited Fish (salmon, grouper, sardines, anchovies, trout)
  • Limited Alcohol (red wine, Sardinian Cannonau wine)


What Can’t You Eat on the Blue Zone Diet?

In general, you want to avoid any processed or packaged foods. Remember, this is a whole-food based diet so anything that’s packaged, processed, or artificially preserved is likely off the table.

  • Sugary Beverages (fruit juice, sodas, most fancy coffee drinks)
  • Packaged Snacks (cookies, crackers, processed foods)
  • Processed Meats (bacon, cold cuts, sausage)


How Do You Implement the Blue Zone Diet?

In general, the Blue Zone diet can be followed by adhering to the above diet guidelines (that is, getting the vast majority of your calories from plants). However, there are other things that people living in Blue Zones tend to do that can help you to increase your longevity, become healthier, and lose weight.

  • Fasting: Many people in Blue Zones are religious and have many periods of intermittent fasting throughout the year. Fasting can reduce your weight and risk for many chronic diseases like hypertension.
  • Caloric Restriction: Those living in Okinawa, Japan follow a rule called hara hachi bu which means “the eighty percent rule” – that is, they only eat until they’re eighty percent full rather than one hundred percent full, thereby lowering their daily caloric intake by an average of twenty percent.
  • Eat Slowly: Because the hormones that indicate to your brain that you’re full only reach significant levels 20 minutes after you eat, by eating slowly you can feel fuller even when eating less (Ballinger & Clark, 1994).
  • Exercise: Those living in Blue Zones tend to have more active lifestyles due to their pastoral lifestyles (gardening, raising animals). The more active people are, the longer they tend to live which may be another leading factor as to why people living in these areas live longer.
  • Get Enough Sleep: Getting enough sleep and rest can increase your lifespan. Many people living in Blue Zones not only get sufficient sleep at night but also take daily naps.


Books on the Blue Zone Diet

  • The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100 (Buettner): “Building on decades of research, longevity expert Dan Buettner has gathered 100 recipes inspired by the Blue Zones, home to the healthiest and happiest communities in the world. Each dish–for example, Sardinian Herbed Lentil Minestrone; Costa Rican Hearts of Palm Ceviche; Cornmeal Waffles from Loma Linda, California; and Okinawan Sweet Potatoes–uses ingredients and cooking methods proven to increase longevity, wellness, and mental health.”
  • The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (Buettner & McConnonhie): “Blue Zones are communities where common elements of lifestyle, diet, and outlook have led to an amazing quantity – and quality – of life. Dan Buettner shares the secrets from four of the world’s Blue Zones. Buettner’s extensive study uncovers how these people manage to live longer and better, but found in the everyday things they do: the food they eat, the company they keep, and their very perspectives on life.”


Evidence-Based Studies on the Blue Zone Diet

  • Satiety Hormones Peak 20 Minutes After Eating: “Preliminary experiments had shown that peak plasma concentrations of CCK [cholecystokinin] were obtained 20 minutes after administering L-PA [L-phenylalanine]… Release of CCK by L-PA is associated with a reduction in subsequent food intake, and this suggests that CCK is an important satiety hormone in humans” (Ballinger & Clark, 1994).
  • Fasting and LDL Cholesterol: “Statistically significant end-fasting total and LDL cholesterol differences were found in fasters” (Sarri et al., 2003).
  • Numerous Health Benefits: “At the cellular level, IF may also increase resistance against oxidative stress, decrease inflammation, and promote longevity” (Stockman et al., 2018).
  • Intermittent Fasting and Cardiovascular Health Benefits: “The IF diet limits many risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases and therefore the occurrence of these diseases” (Malinowski et al., 2019).
  • Blue Zone Healthy Lifestyles: “They include making low-intensity physical activity part of one’s daily routine, building good relationships with friends and family, eating a diet lighter on meat and excess calories and heavier on plants, and finding a purpose for and sense of meaning in your life” (Mishra, 2009).

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