Healthy Foods

Want to live to 100? Eat these foods

Is tofu the key to longevity?

Is tofu the key to longevity?  (iStock)

Diet fads may come and go, but while so-called superfoods like kale, quinoa and acai are touted for their life-giving properties, it turns a real key to being healthy is getting out of the kitchen.

In the re-released “The Blue Zones Solution,” author and National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner, revisits the notion that people in five world regions with the highest concentrations centenarians move their bodies a lot more than people in other cultures. These people are also engaged in their communities—both religious and familial—and also take time to distress, reports NPR.

Buettner started his project in 2000 with a team of anthropologists, demographers, epidemiologists and other researchers who traveled the world in search of communities with higher populations of those whose ages were in the triple figures. After several years,  they identified blue zones-- Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica—not only have a lot of older residents, but their communities have fewer incidents of heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes.

In addition to exercise, food is a vital part of health.  Buettner was able to identify several key similarities about what a “healthy” diet really means.

People in the blue zones, usually:

--Eat their smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening

--Eat mostly plants (especially beans) and eat a relatively small portion of meat—just three to four ounces—about five times a month

--Drink alcohol in moderation, usually less than two glasses day

--Stop eating when 80 percent full to manage weight

“The Blue Zones Solution” is aimed toward an American audience to teach us about different cultures where “more traditional diets harken back to an era before we Americans were inundated with greasy fast food and sugar.”

So what are these people really eating?

Ikaria Greece

Greek cuisine is often associated with roasted lamb and heavier eggplant spreads but the people of Ikaria have their own unique version of a healthful Mediterranean diet.

--Goat’s milk; honey; legumes like garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas and lentils; wild greens; feta; lemons; sage and marjoram; small amounts of fish

Okinawa, Japan

According to Buettner’s research, people on the islands of Okinawa have one of the highest ratios of centenarians in the world. About 6.5 out of every 10,000 live to 100—compared to just 1.73 in 10,000 in the U.S.

They eat:

--Bitter melons; tofu; garlic; brown rice; green tea; shitake mushrooms

Sardinia, Italy

On Sardinia, there are just as many men in their 100s than woman, a very rare statistic compared to the rest of the world where that figure is closer to five to one.

--Goat’s milk and sheep’s cheese (pecorino produced in Sardinia is made from grass-fed sheep and has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than other cheeses);  moderate carbohydrates such as in flatbreads, sourdough and barley; fennel; fava beans; chickpeas, tomatoes; almonds; milk thistle tea; wine from Grenache grapes

Loma Linda, Calif.

Yes, there really is a blue zone in the U.S. Loma Linda has one of the largest concentrations of Seventh-day Adventists in the world. They don’t smoke, drink or dance—and avoid endless consumption of television and movies—which probably means they spend more time outside. They also consume very little sugar and consume a lot of water.

They eat:

--Tofu; avocados, salmon, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread; soy milk

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Buettner says that the Nicoyan people owe their exceptional health to the abundance of Meso-American produce. An unusual tropical fruit not known to many in the U.S., peach palm, contains high levels of vitamins A and C.

--Eggs; papayas; yams; bananas; peach palms; squash; corn; and beans

Looking to incorporate more of these centenarian favorites into your daily cuisine? Check out blue zone approved recipes.