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Blue Zones

What we can learn from the inhabitants of the Blue Zones!


Blue Zone

The image of still being active and independent in old age and playing chess with your great-grandchildren is a tantalising one. For most people, reaching the age of 100 is only desirable if they can maintain their mental and physical fitness. The real question is therefore: how do we stay healthy into old age? One approach is to look at the inhabitants of the so-called Blue Zones. Find out here where these zones are located and the secret behind long life.

What and where are the Blue Zones?

Where do the healthiest centenarians live? To find out, American science journalist Dan Buettner travelled around the world and identified five regions called Blue Zones:

  1. Okinawa (Japan): Japan has the highest number of centenarians in a global comparison; the island of Okinawa in particular is home to many people who are over 90 years old and physically fit.
  2. Ogliastra in Sardinia (Italy): In contrast to the other Blue Zones, almost as many men as women reach old age here.
  3. The island of Ikaria (Greece): The mountains of this Greek island are home to the oldest people in Europe, hence the island is called ‘The island where people forget to die’.
  4. Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica): This region is characterised by its beautiful landscapes, plenty of sunshine and some of the oldest people in the world.
  5. Loma Linda in California (USA): This small town is known for its long-lived and active residents* who belong to one of the largest Seventh-day Adventist congregations in the world.

Although these places may not seem to have much in common at first glance, it turns out that genetics play only a small part in longevity. Instead, epigenetics, the combination of genes and environmental influences, plays a decisive role. Diet, exercise, mindset and the environment play a key role in determining whether and how healthy we grow old.

The diet of the oldest people in the world

As nutrition experts, we are particularly interested in the diet in the Blue Zones. The diet differs between the regions, but also has many similarities:

  1. Okinawa: The Okinawa diet includes lots of fruit and vegetables (especially sweet potatoes), rice, pulses, small amounts of fresh fish and some meat. Green tea, ginger and turmeric are also important.
  2. Ogliastra: In Sardinia, wholemeal cereals and dairy products, such as sourdough bread made from barley and sheep’s cheese, as well as vegetables, fresh fish and some meat are on the menu.
  3. Ikaria: Here the focus is on the Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, pulses, potatoes, olive oil and fish.
  4. Nicoya: Similar to Sardinia, wholemeal cereals and dairy products dominate here, along with vegetables, pulses, meat and eggs.
  5. Loma Linda: The Seventh-day Adventist diet consists of 60 per cent fruit and vegetables, supplemented by pulses, nuts, seeds and little meat and fish.

Similarities in the diet

  1. Avoid sugar and fast food: Sweet fruit instead of refined sugar and no sweets, pastries or soft drinks. The diet is regional and seasonal and based on fresh, unprocessed foods.
  2. Calorie restriction and fasting: In Japan, people follow the ‘Hara hachi bu’ rule, i.e. they only eat until their stomach is 80 per cent full. In the Blue Zones, moderate eating is emphasised and there are often periods of fasting or religious fasting.
  3. Moderate consumption of red wine: In Greece and Sardinia, high-quality, regionally produced red wine is enjoyed in moderation.
  4. Traditional preparation: Food is prepared in traditional ways, such as fermenting and sprouting, to increase nutrient content and reduce anti-nutrients.
  5. Low amounts of dairy products, meat and fish: These come from regional and species-appropriate animal husbandry and are rich in nutrients.


Vegan, vegetarian, low carb or low fat – the Blue Zones show that there is no perfect diet.
A diet based on unprocessed, fresh food and lots of vegetables forms the basis for a healthy life.

The best foods for a long life

Top foods are regional, seasonal and rich in nutrients:

  • -Fruit and vegetables: apples, berries, beans, cabbage, salads
  • Nuts, nut butters and seeds: Walnuts, chestnuts, hemp seeds, linseed, hazelnut butter, almond butter
  • Cereals: oats, millet, buckwheat
  • Pulses: lupins, lentils, field beans, peas
  • Sprouts: Broccoli, radishes, alfalfa
  • Spices and herbs: chives, dill, fennel
  • Fats and oils: olive oil, ghee for frying
  • Meat and dairy products: from regional, species-appropriate farming
  • Fish: from sustainable wild catch or organic quality

Stay fit for a long time with these habits

In addition to nutrition, other aspects also play a role:

  1. Traditional lifestyle: People live in isolation, grow much of their own food and come into less contact with the stressors of the modern world.
  2. Natural movement: Life requires a lot of moderate exercise in the fresh air.
  3. Relaxation: emphasise stress reduction, rest periods and restful sleep.
  4. Social contacts: Family, friends and the community are important. They have important tasks and are always integrated.
  5. Giving meaning to life: Finding fulfilment in life, living in harmony with nature and society.

Although all Blue Zones are located in warm, sunny areas, they can still benefit from the achievements of modernity: clean water and medical care are available.

The best tips from 100-year-olds

  1. Okinawa: Ikigai – Do what makes you happy: Find out what is really important to you and brings you joy.
  2. Ogliastra: Go into nature and get moving: Always keep moving and favour outdoor activities.
  3. Ikaria: Come to rest: Learn to do nothing and reduce stress hormones through meditation or breathing exercises.
  4. Nicoya: Spend time with your loved ones: Socialising and close relationships are important for your health.
  5. Loma Linda: Eat more vegetables and less sugar: Eat a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.

A healthy lifestyle depends not only on diet and exercise, but also on mental health. Take time for yourself and for what fulfils you. You can find more tips in our special “Biohacking”.