Lessons from the Blue Zones
Here at Soupure we like living in the blue! Why? Because Blue Zones are the places on earth with the largest concentration of octogenarians (people ages 80-89 years old)! Researchers identified the commonalities amongst the diets and lifestyles of these communities, locations including Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula; Ikaria, Greece; and one right here in our own backyard – Loma Linda, California.
An intense focus on these Blue Zones resulted in a list of superfoods, lifestyle recommendations and tips to help each of us create our own blueprints for a long and healthy life. At Soupure, we incorporate many of these tips into our own philosophy and products but feel it is our duty to share with our community.
Eat a primarily plant based diet. The main diet trend found in blue zones is one that is plant based. While we believe in the power of animal protein, a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits are common amongst the Blue Zone people. Take Okinawa, Japan, for example, where diets consist of tofu, turmeric and sweet potatoes. Turmeric has been associated with lower rates of cancer, and healthier hearts. Sweet potatoes make up ~60% of Okinawans’ dietary intake and are high in flavonoids and complex carbohydrates. In Loma Linda, CA, a large part of citizens are Seventh Day Adventists, where meat eating is discouraged and a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains has been encouraged for over 150 years.
Eat real farm-to-table food, making sure to stay away from refined sugars and fast food. Blue Zoners eat real non-processed, non GMO whole foods. That is in stark contrast to non-Blue Zones eaters who consume, on average, 3 to 4 times the amount of refined sugar. Fast food restaurants and sodas are virtually unknown in many of the Blue Zone areas. Many studies have shown that the single most most powerful change you can make for your health would be to stop drinking sodas and juices, and replace them with pure water.
While they could do more harm than good if consumed in excess, both wine and coffee have an impressive list of redeeming qualities. Research suggests coffee can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, stroke, and certain cancers. It also helps increase the metabolic activity and/or numbers of beneficial Bifidobacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. Make sure your coffee is organic and opt for whole-bean black coffee — the darker the roast, the better. And, instead of filling that coffee with creamers and sugar, try adding cinnamon (even small amounts have been linked with the reduction of heart disease) instead. As for wine, many people in Ikaria drink a glass of wine with their meals. Wine has high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants. The alcohol in wine also helps lower cortisol levels, a hormone linked to stress. P.S. The people of Ikaria also apparently have a lot of sex; according to researchers, people who have sex at least twice per week after the age of 50 have about half the mortality rate of those that don’t (National Geographic)!
Though we cannot tell you what your life purpose is, we can confidently say, with the backing of research, that having a reason to wake up in the morning contributes to living a longer and healthier life. Dr. Robert N. Butler, Columbia University, conducted an 11-year study where he followed healthy people between the ages of 65 and 92, showing that those who expressed a life purpose, a “why”, lived longer than those who did not feel they had a purpose.
Stress reduction is key to living a long healthy life. When stress levels are high, the ability of our immune system to fight off illness is drastically reduced. An article from BlueZones.com highlights strategies to combating stress. Our favorites: learn to say no when you have too activities on your plate; drink plenty of water; and eat foods rich in B vitamins, especially folic acid (folate) and vitamin B12 which are known to help prevent mood disorders, including depression.
Include constant moderate physical activity in your everyday life. In Ikaria, they engineer “nudges” for physical activity into their daily life, like planting a garden, which creates the need to maintain the garden throughout the entire growing season: watering, weeding or harvesting plants. Houses in Ikaria only have hand tools. Every trip to the store or work includes a walk. While most of us spend our days hunched over a computer for multiple hours a day, it is important to take breaks each hour to stand up and stretch or take a walk with a coworker. Trust us, work can wait, your body cannot.
Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities. The Okinawan form social groups called moai which provide secure social networks. These social networks can be relied upon for financial and emotional support, reducing stress levels simply knowing someone is there to support you in times of need. As our culture has engrained itself in online social networks, we must not deprioritize human interaction.
We hope you enjoyed and will incorporate these lessons from the Blue Zone into your life. If you want to learn more, we recommend visiting the Blue Zones website. There you will find Ted Talks, books, and services offered by this excellent organization.