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The #1 Eating Habit for Weight Loss From the Longest Living People

It’s all in the greens.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

If the old adage is true, with age comes wisdom, then people who live the longest are among the best resources to ask just about anything. From lifestyle to mental health to work and overall outlook, lived experience can help make anyone an expert, in time.

Luckily, research has been done on how to track down these wise, well-aged people and glean their life advice. The Blue Zones Project, led by founder Dan Buettner, identified the five places in the world where people live the longest: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California. Then, he and his team studied these communities and took note of the wide array of life advice we have to learn from them.

That advice, of course, includes knowledge about how to eat for optimal health. While Blue Zone communities have a lot in common in terms of eating habits, the number one practice they share is simple: they are all largely plant-based.

The longest-living people largely eat a plant-based diet.

"People in the Blue Zones eat an impressive variety of garden vegetables when they are in season, and then they pickle or dry the surplus to enjoy during the off-season," says the project. "The best-of-the-best longevity foods are leafy greens such as spinach, kale, beet and turnip tops, chard, and collards. Combined with seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans dominate Blue Zones meals all year long."

These long-livers do eat meat, but only as a small side, very sparingly. Instead, protein comes from beans, nuts, seeds, and greens—all foods that can support weight loss.

The link between a plant-based diet and weight loss.

A plant-based diet has already been proven to help with weight loss by a myriad of other studies; perhaps the amount of evidence out there that correlates plants with lower body weight is to blame for our current cultural shift towards meat alternatives.

As far back as 2010, a study showed that meat consumption was associated with weight gain, even if other healthy weight loss techniques were employed. Then, in 2018, a comprehensive review of several studies showed that plant-based diets were correlated with better overall health—including more successful attempts at weight loss. As recently as 2020, another study was published linking a plant-based diet with weight loss.

We've known for a while now that plants are the answer, at least, according to the research. But thanks to the Blue Zones Project, we can feel confident that the idea is based on something beyond academic research: it's affirmed by the wisdom of the world's longest-living people.

Kaley Roberts
Kaley Roberts is a food writer. Read more about Kaley