Attempting to change America’s eating habits starting with one town, one community or one city at a time is the goal of author, Dan Buettner and his findings that he describes in his new book, The Blue Zone Solutions, Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People. Buettner found pockets on the planet where many centurions are living a happy, awesome quality of life. Therefore, these areas of hope can be role models to show the United States that lifestyle changes don’t have to be a hardship.
Here are a few of the areas centurions are thriving:
Ikaria, Greece- An Island in the Aegean sea eight miles off the coast of Turkey that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia.
Okinawa, Japan- The largest island in a subtropical archipelago, home to the world’s longest-lived women
Ogliastra Region, Sardinia - The mountainous highlands of an Italian island that boast the world’s highest concentration of centenarian men.
Loma Linda, California - A community with the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the United States, where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica- A place in this Central American country where residents have the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
Furthermore, a team of health experts were asked to identify some common denominators among the centurions and they came up with these nine lessons, that they call the Power Nine:
1) Move Naturally - The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms.
2) Purpose - The Okinawans call it ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida; for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.”
3) Downshift - Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress, which leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s longest-lived people have routines to shed that stress: Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap, and Sardinians do happy hour.
4) 80 Percent Rule - Hara hachi bu--the 2,500-year-old Confucian mantra spoken before meals on Okinawa--- reminds people to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full.
5) Plant Slant - Beans, including fava, black, soy, and lentil are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets.
7) Belong - All but 5 of the 263 centenarians they interviewed belonged to a faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter.
8) Loved Ones First- Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first.
9) Right Tribe - The world’s longest-lived people choose, or were born into, social circles that support healthy behaviors.
Interestingly enough, I found that I have been living for the most part, the life Buettner describes. The only thing I am lacking is number 9. The Right Tribe. I do have many friends that I love, however, many of them are not living right in my immediate community. Also, wrapping my head around number 4- the 80% rule is a new concept. With a partner that loves “all you can eat” buffets. Well, I have to work on that one.
In this book, Buettner’s team traveled to Finland, Minnesota, three California coastal towns and Iowa to give us a point by point description of what worked and didn’t work for these towns and communities. For the most part, the towns embraced the change. However, there were challenges to overcome. Humans do have a mind set when it comes to change, but if they can be educated on the overall outcome, there can be positive progress.
This book is a must have for school and home to understand the basics of getting enough of the correct items in your diet. For many Americans, giving up the junk food seems impossible but their health is the only thing suffering and along with that comes no energy, poor judgements and all sorts of other issues. Wouldn’t it be a happier world if people understood how eating more healthy does affect the our whole being- mind, body and soul?
Bottom line- Is it working?
Most of us spend about 80% of our lives within about a 20-mile radius of our home. We do have direct control over how we set up our kitchen, bedroom, yard, and even social network, but managing our bigger life radius is more is more difficult. Do you live in a community where sodas, salty snacks, and fast food are the cheapest and most accessible choices or one where subsidies and tax policy favor fruits and vegetables? Are parks maintained? Can you take a bus to work, and can your kids walk to school or does every trip require you get into your car? Do zoning ordinances encourage sprawl or favor a vibrant, active inner-city core?
Although you may not realize it, you have the power to improve some aspects of your life radius. In the Blue Zone communities, the author has seen people join food action committees to introduce public vegetable garden or propose ordinances to limit the number of fast-food restaurants per block.
When Buettner asked Bob Fagan how it was working in his community in Iowa, here is his response, “This Blue Zone thing is a journey. Around here, our habits were solidified when we were kids. We used to just stuff food in our mouths and not really think about it. So, the idea of eating vegetables felt like a challenge until we tried them and discovered we actually liked them. Now my grandkids are learning the healthy habits from my daughter and not just eating veggies, but eating at the supper table instead of eating on the run like I did.
“But how about you personally, Bob?” Dan pressed. “How have you changed”
“Put it this way, I live in the “pork state” and now I actually sort of think kale is cool”
Therefore, I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting a clearer picture of how you can easily incorporate a healthier change in you, your family and your community.
To learn more about Blue Zones and the impact this information is creating, please visit, www.bluezones.com.