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What in the world is…a Blue Zone?

Body, Together inspired

You may have heard about the latest fad diet or follow inspirational weight loss blogs and Instagrammers, but have you heard about Blue Zones? Residents of Blue Zones (five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S.) share certain lifestyle characteristics that enable them to live to 100 years old.

That’s right.

Blue Zones have the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world, and the primary reason for this is that they’ve adopted healthy diets and active lifestyles, and above all else, they place high value on social wellness and spirituality. In his book The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner researched and evaluated communities around the world that hosted higher levels of 100-year-old residents. His goal was to uncover the specific factors that these communities shared so that everyone, all over the world, could learn from them. After completing his research, Buettner labeled only five communities as official “Blue Zones”: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.

Loma Linda, California, is unique because a large percentage of its residents is Seventh-day Adventist. Because health is central to their faith, it is not surprising that the people of Loma Linda are longevity all-stars. They get regular exercise, eat meat sparingly (if at all), don’t drink or smoke, and surround themselves with like-minded friends who share their values and support positive habits. Because they place value on fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, there’s a lot to be said about the power of the Adventist diet—and the folks of Loma Linda aren’t the only ones living the Blue Zone way.

In 2016, Adventist Health Castle in Kailua, Hawaii, became the first Blue Zones Project Approved worksite in Hawaii. What does that mean? Essentially, the facility offers its employees access wellness resources, a vegetarian bistro, healthy vending machine options and ergonomic workstations for healthier working habits. Blue Zones initiatives such as these have had a significant impact to date, reaching around 3.4 million lives across 42 communities in nine states, according to the Blue Zones official website.

What are some things you can do to improve your overall health so that you might live to see triple digits? Move to Loma Linda. Maybe! Or, just follow a few basic tips for incorporating some of the healthy principles into your daily life, such as:

  • Eat plants. Ninety to 95 percent of your daily food intake should be fruits, veggies, grains, greens and beans.
  • Avoid too much dairy. Many Adventists practice a vegan diet, and many others consume animal byproducts sparingly. You just might discover that you love coconut milk!
  • Have a cup of beans per day—this includes tofu! Tofu is great because it includes high-quality protein and fiber. If you’re buying canned beans, read the labels to ensure they’re not packed with too much sodium, sugar and chemicals.
  • Limit your sugar to 28 grams (seven teaspoons) daily. Use honey to sweeten your foods instead of sugar.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Get regular, moderate exercise. Daily walks are a great way to get in low-intensity exercises (and fun with friends!).
  • Rest up! Adventists celebrate a 24-hour Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, when they worship and focus on God, family and fellowship. This is a great opportunity to step away from the stress of the week and get outdoors. A weekly activity (hiking, anyone?) will not only keep you active, but strengthen your social and spiritual networks.

Another helpful tip to living that Blue Zones life would be to source the best, freshest ingredients for your daily menus. Farmers markets are great places to score fresh foods (and supporting local farmers is always a win-win scenario!). And have you heard about meal delivery services? Although they can be on the pricier side, these options are giving busy families a fun way to try new recipes and get the kids involved in the healthy-cooking process (calling all future chefs!). Services like Purple Carrot, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron offer vegetarian delivery options.

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