“Blue Zone” is a term for regions of the world where people tend to live longer lives, often reaching up to age 90 and even age 100 and beyond.

Currently, there are five known Blue Zones. They are:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Icaria, Greece
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Loma Linda, California

Research shows that while aging is influenced by your genes and can vary from person to person, external factors can greatly affect how long you live. These may include diet, lifestyle, stress, and social environment (2Trusted Source3Trusted Source4Trusted Source5Trusted Source).

Though these Blue Zones are scattered all over the world, their diets and lifestyles share some similarities.

For example, people in these areas tend to exercise more and eat lots of vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.

This article reviews the diets of each Blue Zone region.

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Okinawa is a region on a group of islands called the Ryukyu Islands in the south of Japan.

The Okinawa diet refers to the eating pattern its residents traditionally follow. Okinawans are among the world’s longest living people. The diet is low in calories yet dense in nutrients (1Trusted Source6Trusted Source7Trusted Source8Trusted Source).

It is primarily a plant-based diet that centers on the staple sweet potato, leafy greens, yellow root vegetables, soy, and low glycemic index (GI) grains — the ones that don’t spike your blood sugar levels (6Trusted Source).

By prioritizing these foods, the Okinawa diet is rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s also packed with antioxidants, which help fight free radicals and reduce the risk of age-related chronic diseases (6Trusted Source).

While the Okinawa diet is not strictly vegetarian, people consume animal-based foods sparingly. The same is true of processed foods and sweets.

Here’s a list of staple foods to eat and foods to avoid when following a traditional Okinawan diet (6Trusted Source).

Foods to eat

  • Vegetables: Okinawan sweet potato, bitter melon, bamboo shoots, cabbage, white radish, Chinese okra, pumpkin, carrots, and burdock
  • Legumes: primarily soy and soy products, such as tofu, miso, and natto
  • Grains: millet, noodles, and rice
  • Meats and poultry: lean cuts of pork, chicken, and occasionally goat
  • Fish and sea vegetables: fish, algae, kelp, and other seaweed
  • Condiments: turmeric and various herbs and spices instead of salt

Foods to avoid

  • Dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter
  • Meats and poultry: beef, processed or cured meats, and eggs
  • Other: cooking oils, fruits, sweets, nuts, and seeds

To get the best out of the traditional Okinawan sweet potato, try this recipe for baked purple sweet potato fries.

SUMMARY

The Okinawa diet is primarily plant based. It’s low in calories but rich in nutrients. Its staple food is the Okinawan sweet potato, along with soy products and low GI grains.

The island of Sardinia is located west of the Italian Peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. It is said to be the home of the longest-lived men (1Trusted Source).

The Sardinia diet is a variation of the Mediterranean diet — also called Sardo-Mediterranean — that’s associated with preventing chronic age-related diseases (9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, minimally processed whole grains and legumes, nuts and olive oil as main fat sources, moderate fish consumption, and low intakes of dairy, alcohol, and red meat (9Trusted Source).

In contrast, the Sardinian variation includes higher intakes of olive oil, fish, milk and dairy products, and alcoholic drinks (11Trusted Source12Trusted Source).

Some of the foods people eat and avoid on the Sardinian diet include (11Trusted Source12Trusted Source):

Foods to eat

  • Vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, cabbage, zucchini, and carrots
  • Fruits: oranges, apples, bananas, dates, figs, and peaches
  • Legumes: fava beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • Grains: barley and wheat for their traditional flatbread and pasta
  • Dairy: goat’s and sheep’s milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Fish and seafood: sea bass, anchovies, octopus, mussels, clams, and lobster
  • Fats: olive oil and nuts, such as almonds and hazelnuts
  • Herbs and spices: parsley, fennel, mint, bay leaves, celery, and garlic
  • Alcohol: Cannonau red wine and myrtle liqueur

Foods to eat occasionally

  • Certain meats: beef, lamb, and pork
  • Sweets: honey, puff pastry, and candied orange peels

Foods to avoid

  • Some meats and poultry: including processed or cured meats
  • Processed foods: sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains and oils, and ready-to-eat foods and snacks

If you want to give a traditional Sardinian recipe a try, you could make a homemade version of the minestrone.

SUMMARY

The Sardinia diet follows most of the Mediterranean diet’s eating pattern, with higher intakes of milk and dairy products, olive oil, fish, and alcohol.

Ikaria is a small Greek island located in the Aegean Sea.

The Ikaria diet is also a variation of the Mediterranean diet, with a higher intake of coffee, potatoes, and full-fat dairy products (13Trusted Source14Trusted Source).

However, it still emphasizes fruits, vegetables, olive oil, cereals, and legumes, while keeping a low consumption of meat products and moderate intakes of wine (14Trusted Source).

Foods to eat and avoid in the Ikaria diet include (14Trusted Source):

Foods to eat

  • Vegetables: tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, kale, and wild greens
  • Fruits: apricot, figs, plums, pomegranate, berries, kiwi, oranges, lemon, and watermelon
  • Legumes: beans, chickpeas, and lentils
  • Grains: whole grain cereals and bread
  • Dairy: goat’s milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Fish and seafood: sardines, salmon, trout, and herring
  • Fats: olive oil and nuts, including almonds and walnuts
  • Herbs and spices: mint, rosemary, sage, mugwort, garlic, thyme, basil, and oregano
  • Beverages: boiled Greek coffee and red wine
  • Sweets: honey

Foods to eat occasionally

  • Some types of meat: beef, chicken, goat, and pork

Foods to avoid

  • Processed or cured meat: such as ham or sausages
  • Processed foods: soda, candy, instant foods, and snack bars

Follow this recipe to give a traditional mixed greens pie a try.

SUMMARY

The Ikaria diet is another variation of the Mediterranean diet with a higher intake of coffee, potatoes, and full-fat dairy products.

Nicoya is located in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. This specific region has a 20% lower mortality rate than the rest of the country (11Trusted Source15Trusted Source).

Compared with the diets mentioned above, the Nicoya diet has a higher animal-based protein content and a lower intake of healthy fats.

However, it is also characterized by high intakes of fiber and low GI foods — which also means a lower intake of processed and refined foods (15Trusted Source).

The Nicoya diet is abundant in plain, traditional foods, such as rice, beans, corn, chicken, and eggs. People also consume more expensive foods, such as aged cheese and olive oil, but more rarely (15Trusted Source).

Here are some of the foods Nicoyans eat most and least (11Trusted Source15Trusted Source):

Foods to eat

  • Vegetables: plantain, yucca, squash, pejibaye, bell peppers, onions, cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumbers
  • Fruits: tropical fruits, such as papaya, banana, mango, and pineapple
  • Legumes: black beans and lentils
  • Grains: rice, corn, and whole grain bread
  • Dairy: soft and hard cheeses
  • Poultry: chicken and eggs
  • Fats: butter, avocado, canola, and sunflower oil
  • Beverages: fresh fruit juice, coffee, and guaro — a traditional alcoholic beverage

Foods to eat occasionally

  • Some fresh meats: beef and pork
  • Sweets: pastries, table sugar, cookies, and desserts

Foods to avoid

  • Processed and cured meats
  • Dairy: cow’s milk
  • Processed foods: refined grains, sodas, and frozen foods

If you’d like to taste a traditional Nicoyan dish, try this gallo pinto recipe — a mix of white rice and black beans eaten as a breakfast staple, often with eggs on the side.

SUMMARY

The Nicoya diet differs from the rest of the Blue Zone diets in that it has a higher intake of animal-based proteins and a lower intake of healthy fats. Still, it is high in fiber and low GI foods.

The Seventh-day Adventist Diet refers to the eating pattern of the Adventist religious community located in Loma Linda, California.

People in this community follow a mostly vegan diet derived from the Bible. It’s based on nuts, legumes, and leafy greens. The Seventh-day Adventist diet is the only Blue Zone diet that is largely plant based (1Trusted Source).

Research suggests that vegan diets may lower the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This may be one key to the community’s increased longevity (16Trusted Source17Trusted Source18Trusted Source).

Despite being mostly vegan, this diet divides meats into “clean” and “unclean” categories, according to the Bible. Adventists may choose to eat some of the “clean” options (19Trusted Source).

Here’s a list of foods to eat and avoid while following the Seventh-day Adventist diet (19Trusted Source20):

Foods to eat

  • Vegetables: tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, parsnips, carrots, and onions
  • Fruits: apples, pears, bananas, peaches, oranges, and mango
  • Legumes: beans and lentils
  • Grains: oats, whole grain bread, quinoa, corn, rice, and amaranth
  • Plant-based protein: soy and soy products, like tofu, tempeh, and edamame
  • Fats: olive oil and nuts, such as cashews and almonds

Foods to eat occasionally

  • Some meats: salmon, chicken, eggs, and beef
  • Dairy: low fat milk and milk products

Foods to avoid

  • Certain meats: including pork and shellfish
  • Dairy: full-fat milk products
  • Beverages: alcoholic and caffeinated beverages
  • Certain flavorings: hot condiments and spices
  • Processed foods: sweets and other highly refined foods, such as frozen, prepackaged, and fast foods

To try a vegan version of an American staple, follow this vegan mac and cheese recipe.

SUMMARY

The Seventh-day Adventist diet is a mostly vegan diet inspired by the Bible. It divides meats into “clean” and “unclean” categories, and Adventists may choose among the options in the “clean” list.

Blue Zones are regions of the world where a higher proportion of people live more than 100 years.

There are currently five known Blue Zones. Their inhabitants’ longevity is partly attributed to their diets, along with other factors, such as exercise and social environment.

While most Blue Zone diets are primarily plant-based, one (the Nicoya diet) relies on animal-based foods as the main protein source.

Still, they all share other characteristics, such as high intakes of fruits, vegetables, and low GI foods.

JPeei Clinic