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How This New Cookbook May Help You Live a Longer Life

An exclusive look at the new cookbook by Dan Buettner, founder of the Blue Zones Project.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

Longevity is a topic that many people have come to care deeply about, especially in a country like the United States, where heart disease, diabetes, and cancer exist in such devastating numbers. People want to know the secrets to living longer lives, and many of the answers are found in other parts of the globe.

The Blue Zones are five regions of the world with the highest concentration of centenarians and supercentenarians. These regions are Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Icaria in Greece, Loma Linda in California, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

Many people want to know how to live longer, healthier lives like in these communities in a place where longevity sometimes seems impossible. To better understand this, we turned to expert Dan Buettner, founder of the Blue Zones Project, National Geographic explorer, and New York Times bestselling author.

We were fortunate enough to talk to him about his new book The Blue Zone American Kitchen, which contains 100 longevity recipes gathered from chefs around the United States. Read on to learn more about how cooking up some of these Blue Zone-inspired recipes can help change your life in a positive way.

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What is 'The Blue Zones American Kitchen' cookbook?

"I wrote the Blue Zone Kitchen a few years ago, as kind of a manual on how to eat the 'Blue Zone way,'" says Buettner. "But some of the feedback came in as 'well this is outside of America, I live in America. I don't live in Sardinia or Okinawa.'"

But what Buettner quickly discovered is that, with the exception of the Adventist Community of Loma Linda, there really are no American Blue Zones. In fact, it feels like many American patterns of eating are doing far more harm than good, with "the standard American Diet killing 680,000 people every year," Buettner claims.

"I spent 150 hours at NYU in the archives with a researcher, and we went through dietary surveys over the last 150 years to find out if anyone in America had eaten in a Blue Zones pattern," says Buettner. "While I didn't find it among my European ancestors, I found it among African, Asian, Native, and Latin Americans."

Buettner wanted to learn more about these culinary practices, especially because it seemed many of these practices had somewhat disappeared.

"I was then connected with chefs who are still cooking this way, or historian chefs who could recreate it. We found 55 chefs between Maine and Miami; and Maui and Minnesota," says Buettner. "This book captures the culinary genius of Americans in these four ethnicities taking these healthy practices, unleashing centuries of culinary genius, and making these phenomenal recipes. These are recipes that have been cooked by real people for generations."

What a 'Blue Zone' pattern entails


Buettner's new book is made up entirely of plant-based recipes. This is because the Blue Zone way of eating involves whole-food, plant-based dishes, very small amounts of meat, and complex carbohydrates.

"The pillars of every longevity diet in the world are whole grains, wheat, rice and corn, greens, sweet potatoes, nuts, and beans. Very little cheese, very little eggs," says Buettner.

To many, this way of eating may seem intimidating, but Buettner promises that making these sustainable changes is much more simple than you may think. It's especially much less complicated than many of the diets or programs people try to start in the New Year.

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How to get started with the 'Blue Zone Way'

smiling woman cooking

We know that getting started on something is far easier said than done. It's why many of us think about making healthy changes to our diet or exercise routines, but sometimes have a hard time actually doing it. With this in mind, Buettner shared what his advice would be to someone who has the desire to start living a healthy, plant-based lifestyle.

"Get a book like this one. Sit down by yourself or with your family. Take Post-it notes and identify 12 recipes you think you'd enjoy. If one looks gross, don't make that one. For your New Year's Resolution, just cook those foods," says Buettner. "Why? Because you'll get the experience of buying these things and you'll get the experience of making it. So, instead of putting all the time and money and effort into some program, just over the first three weeks of the year, cook 12 plant-based dishes. That's how you start."

Not only is starting this way of eating quite simple, but Buettner also emphasizes the health and longevity benefits attached to eating this way.

"The easiest, turn-your-brain-off diet is just single ingredient plants. You'll lose weight. Your chance of developing a heart disease will go down by a factor of four. Your chance of diabetes will go down almost 100%. Your chances of cancers in the GI track go down," he says.

A delicious recipe from 'The Blue Zone American Kitchen'

The Blue Zone American Kitchen is full of 100 delicious, plant-based recipes that you can make for yourself or the whole family to enjoy. They feature a variety of culinary cuisines that can impress any palate.

Here is an example recipe to give you a taste of what you could expect from the book:

Hawaiian Fresh Fruit Tacos

What You'll Need:

  • 1 cup of diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup of diced fresh mango
  • 1 cup of diced white onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (peeled and seeded)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 pieces fresh Hawaiian chili pepper
  • 2 cups diced avocado
  • 12 soft corn tortillas
  • Sea salt
  • Moringa flakes
  • Hot sauce (optional)

 How to Prepare:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, mango, white onion, green onion, tomatoes, cilantro, salt, lemon juice, and chili pepper. Toss to mix well.
  2. Heat the tortillas on a baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees for a minute or two.
  3. Fill the tortillas with the fruit filling and add the avocado, dividing equally.
  4. Sprinkle moringa flakes over the fruit and add hot sauce, if using.

    "The most important ingredient is always taste," Buettner says, in terms of what's essential to any sort of diet or eating for longevity. "At the end of the day, if it's not something you're going to do for the long run—i.e., decades—don't waste your time. When it comes to longevity, there's no short-term fix."


    Samantha Boesch
    Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha