I have been meaning to read “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like The Worlds Heathiest People”, by author, Dan Buettner and National Geograhic fellow. Luckily, I came across an article recently in the WSJ which discusses his findings. They are quite fascinating and I thought I would share them with you.
The specific area in the world he has pegged as a longevity magnet is the Italian island of Sardinia. This country boasts 21 centenarians in a population of 10,000. What do they do differently than Americans?.. Buettner studied Sardinans ten years ago and theorized that genetics was the cause of their long lives. Interested, more recently, studies have indicated that the genetic markers of the centenarians are similar to those of the general population!
Buettner’s team of scientists first studied the eating habits of those living in areas designated as the “blue zones”. The results are: >65% of what people ate came from complex carbohydrates!
Blue Zones Japan – sweet potatoes
Blue Zones Greece – wild greens
Blue Zones Costa Rica- squash, corn
Their diets are composed primarily of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other complex carbs Meat is eaten, but in small portions and only a handful of times monthly. The one common food eaten among all Buettner zones is surprisingly the BEAN!! Sardinians favored favs beans, CostaRicans black beans, and Japanese enjoy lentils and soybeans.
Nutritionists explain that beans have the highest fiber content of the complex carbs and ” allow the gut to serve as a compost and allow healthy bacteria to thrive”. Getting back to Sardinia—- the total regimen for their longevity encompasses more than eating their share of beans! Other factors of equal importance include an assortment of social and cultural activities enhanced by living in a village.
Buettner’s recent trip to Sardinia included an afternoon watching a group of women who had gathered to bake sourdough bread. They actively kneaded the bread for a long time, chatted amongst themselves no enjoyed eating together the finished product. The social aspects of village lie are apparent as people chat up eat other on the street, make themselves available if someone is ill or loses track of their sheep! Groups are tight knit. Men are fond gathering in groups for their morning coffee, later in the day for a game of dominoes and n the evening to enjoy some homemade wine!
Strong family ties are another component of their healthful lifestyle. Outside activities never take precedence over caring for a family member. Older people feel safe and secure in the knowledge they will be taken care of and their family will always be there for them.
Buettner’s from his latest trip to Sardinia is that the healthy habits I have described are easily accessible to these people. He believes Americans should place their focus on trying to make their living areas more conducive to making healthful choices, rather than on their individual behavior. So- we can think about more than the latest fitness fad or equipment, and more about becoming energized by our interactions with others. Oh, and throwing some beans int your diet can hurt, either! What are your thoughts about these findings? Lifestyle or genetics? Both? Tell me what you think.