Eat Like the World's Oldest People With This 1-Day Plan
Most of us would probably love to live a long, healthy life. But the real question is, how can we do that? Research has found that genetics only play one part, whereas your diet and lifestyle contribute more than most people realize.
That is why many researchers are turning to the world's Blue Zones—the five regions in the world with the highest concentrations of people who live to be over 100. These regions include Ikaria in Greece, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, and Loma Linda in California.
While every region has its own practices unique to its landscape and culture, researchers have found commonalities among them that they believe contribute to the residents' longevity.
Using these research findings as inspiration, we've put together a plan of how you can live a day in the life of some of the world's longest-living people. Read on, and for more healthy aging tips check out The Best Eating Habits of the Longest Living People in the World.
Wake up early and reflect.
How you start your morning can impact the rest of your day, and getting into a consistently healthy morning routine may also impact the rest of your life.
According to a research article published in The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, many people in the Blue Zones practice the art of focusing on their life's purpose. The Okinawans call this "ikigai," which most closely translates to "that which makes life worth living."
Take a few minutes when you first wake up to reflect on this. This could be journaling, meditating, or some light yoga. However you choose to do it, having these moments of reflection and intention is one important way you can start your morning like the longest living people.
Eat a nutrient-dense breakfast.
According to Dan Buettner, the founder of the Blue Zone Project and an avid researcher of the world's Blue Zone regions, the longest living people in the world almost always start their morning with their biggest meal of the day and eat smaller meals as the day continues.
The Blue Zones also consume plenty of vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains in their diet, which is a part of what keeps their incidences of disease so low. For some breakfast inspiration, try a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fruit on top, or a slice of whole grain bread with egg, avocado, and veggies. Whatever you decide, you don't have to box yourself into what you think you have to eat for breakfast! For example, the Nicoyans enjoy plantains, rice, and beans every morning, which we may not think of as a traditional breakfast here in the U.S.
The world's oldest people often avoid red and/or processed meat, so you won't find them eating much bacon or breakfast sausage in the morning.
And yes, the Blue Zones drink coffee! In fact, the way that Ikarians prepare their coffee is supposed to be one of the healthiest methods in the world. Just make sure you're watching how much cream and sugar you throw in your cup, as many people in the Blue Zones avoid too much added sugar and processed food.
Take a mid-morning break.
Don't hesitate to take a mid-morning break, even on a busy day. Another common habit among the world's longest-living people is the practice of resting and lowering their stress, as well as getting natural movement in throughout the day.
We often have it backward here in the U.S., where most of us sit at a desk all day, stress about our jobs, and then go to the gym after work. This isn't bad, per se, but the Blue Zones can teach us a bit more about how to find balance.
If you can, take even just a 15-minute break to do some light yoga or take a walk around the block! If you're feeling hungry, grab a handful of nuts, which are a staple among many of the Blue Zones.
Eat lunch with a friend.
Now it's time to enjoy some lunch. Focus on getting plenty of plant-based fiber and protein, something that the longest-living people naturally do in all of their meals. You can try a dish with quinoa, veggies, and some fish, or maybe a sandwich made on whole grain bread. If you need some quick and easy ideas, you can try some of these recipes inspired by the world's oldest people.
If you're able to, you can also try spending your lunchtime with a friend, coworker, or family member, or calling someone to catch up while you eat! Community and a sense of belonging are pillars of the way of living in the world's Blue Zones, so they spend time with the people they love whenever they can.
The oldest living people have no problem finishing up their work day with plenty of time to decompress. Buettner says that the Blue Zone communities all have their own way of slowing down at the end of the day. People in Ikaria are known to take naps, Sardinians are known to enjoy a glass of wine with friends, and Adventists in Loma Linda take time to pray.
You could also take a page from the Okinawans' book and enjoy a cup of tea with a friend while sitting on the floor! The practice of sitting on the floor to eat meals or talk with friends is known for being one of the key ways Okinawans stay so physically healthy throughout their lives.
Enjoy a light dinner.
Enjoy your last food of the day with a smaller meal, and try eating earlier in the evening. This gives your body time to digest your food before you head to bed.
The Okinawans have been practicing something called the 80/20 rule for centuries. This means that they only eat until they're 80% full, and then they leave the rest of the 20%.
Try roasting some veggies and potatoes with a side of quinoa, or grill a delicious piece of fish with some vegetables on the side. Along with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes, many of the world's longest-living people incorporate healthy fats in their diets, such as olive oil, fish, and nuts.
End your day with intention.
Now, it's time to wind down and end your day with intention. As we mentioned before, the longest-living people are known for focusing on how they can lower stress and have a sense of gratitude and purpose every day. For you, this could look like slowing down enough to get off of your phone an hour before bed, take a relaxing shower, or read your favorite book in bed.
These are just some of the ways you can live a day like the world's oldest people, but you can take these tips and make them your own to fit your current lifestyle.