Blue Zones: the healthiest places on earth

Discover the secrets to longevity from areas where the world’s healthiest people live.

‘Blue Zones’ identify pockets of people throughout the world where the population live the longest and healthiest lives, with the lowest rates of chronic disease. These include the Barbagia region of Sardinia, with the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians, Ikaria, Greece, with one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and Okinawa, Japan (pictured above), where females over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.

We are increasingly aware that our lifestyle choices have a far greater impact on our life expectancy and susceptibility to certain diseases than our genetic makeup. The ‘Danish Twin Study’ established that only around 20% of how long the average person lives is determined by genes and it’s our lifestyle habits which have the power to enhance life-longevity. Research also suggests that most of us have the capacity to make it well into our early 90’s and largely without chronic disease. However, the average person’s life expectancy could increase by 10-12 years by adopting aspects of a ‘Blue Zone’ lifestyle.

5 ways we can replicate the 'Blue Zone' longevity effect 

1. OPTIMISE NUTRITION

Research suggests we should aim for 30 types of diverse plants every week, from spices to nuts and seeds and seasonal vegetables. Those living in ‘Blue Zones’ eat a primarily plant-based diet, with as much as 95% of their food coming from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Dr Federica, Chief Nutrition Scientist for Indi Supplements, highlights that “Eating a combination of these foods every day helps support our body’s immune and anti-inflammatory functions for a long and healthy life”. However, many of us are simply not getting the nutrients we need from our food. Indi’s plant based supplements are formulated with real food ingredients so can easily be absorbed by the body and act as a ‘food enhancer’, offering a comprehensive nutritional toolkit, in order to optimise our overall health.

2. MAINTAIN MOVEMENT

Many westernised societies are moving less than ever before and as a result, our ‘Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE) is decreasing. We can now expect to live up to 20% of our lives with a chronic illness. When it comes to exercise for people in the ‘Blue Zones’, it’s not about hitting the gym or running marathons, they simply live in environments where regular movement is part of their daily lifestyle, without having to consciously think about exercising.

3. CONSUME CONSCIOUSLY

In Okinawa, Japan, where they have the world's highest proportion of centenarians, a 2500-year old mantra “Hara hachi bu” is used when eating, which teaches you to consume your food until you are only 80 percent full. This eating habit has led to their population having one of the lowest rates of illness from heart disease, cancer and strokes. People in the blue zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then don’t eat again for the rest of the day. Adopting habits such as trying to consume your food more slowly, eating from a smaller plate and ensuring you are totally present and not distracted at meal times can help you harness this mantra.

4. DRINK MODERATELY

We’ve long been aware of the benefits of drinking red wine, but how often and which variety is more important that you may realise. Those in the majority of all blue zones drink alcohol moderately and regularly and research has shown that moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. Those in the Barbagia region of Sardinia drink 1-2 glasses per day, preferably of antioxidant-rich Sardinian Cannonau wine, accompanied with food. This variety of wine has up to 3x the level of flavonoids and small amounts can help prevent molecules, known as free radicals, from damaging cells and protect the body against the risk of cancer, heart disease, and dementia.

5. MANAGE STRESS

We know that food is made up of complex chemical structures, which interact with one other as well as with our gut microbes and our cells. What’s exciting to see in recent research is how plants can act to help improve our health in clinically measurable ways including managing levels of stress. Nature’s pharmacy includes polyphenols in dark plants and fruits such as cavolo nero and haskap berries which help counteract oxidative stress and reishi mushroom, which helps to rebalance hormone levels and may improve your body's ability to cope with stress. Indi’s Supplements contain carefully selected active plant powders that are minimally processed to maintain their natural beneficial effects.

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