Live like a Centenarian Eating for Longevity By Jaime Slavin, Nutritionist/Dietitian BASc., MPH., RD.
Want to live to 100 years old? The centenarians of the world’s “Blue Zones” (areas of the world where people live to 100 and are largely free of heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes) have some lifestyle tips to share with you. Researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists have travelled the world to learn from these “Blue Zones”, which are geographically dispersed. You can find these zones in towns and cities of Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, Japan, and California.
Not surprisingly, these longevity hotspots have some common lifestyle themes.
- Move naturally- engage in low intensity daily physical activity
- Good outlook – have a sense of purpose and calm in their life
- Right tribe- have a strong social support network, prioritizing family and faith/spirituality
- Eat wisely- enjoy a mainly plant based diet that is free of processed foods.
Let’s explore point four a little more and learn about the diets of the five geographical hotspots that are proving living to 100 is easier than we think!
Food choices are similar to the Mediterranean diet which focuses on eating fresh plant based foods, quality oils, as well as fish and small amounts of meat. Research has found this diet to be anti-inflammatory, contributing to overall longevity. Common foods eaten in Icaria: Potatoes, goat’s milk, legumes (especially garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lentils), wild greens, fruit, small amounts of fish, honey, and fresh herbal teas (sage and marjoram).
Food choices are also similar to the Mediterranean diet. Common foods eaten in Sardinia: Goat’s and sheep’s milk, flat bread, sourdough breads, barley, fennel, tomatoes, almonds, fava beans, chickpeas.
Loma Linda, California
Consists of a large percentage of vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians due to a high percentage of Seventh Day Adventists who follow specific dietary lifestyles.
Common foods eaten in Loma Linda: Avocados, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, soy milk, salmon.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Food choices are very connected to their traditional ways of eating. Common foods eaten in the Nicoya Peninsula: Eggs, beans, corn, squash, papaya, yams, bananas, peach palms (a local fruit), fish.
The Okinawan’s eating philosophy is twofold: Eat something from the land and the sea everyday, and eat until you are 80% full which is a common practice in this region of Japan (Japanese saying “hara haci bu”).
Common foods eaten in Okinawa: Seaweed, turmeric, sweet potato, bitter melons, tofu, garlic, brown rice, shitake mushrooms, green tea.
Customary dietary threads among these five regions include cooking meals from scratch, eating mostly plant based foods, limiting meat intake (approximately 3-4 ounces once a week), eating lighter meals at the end of the day, not relying on fast, greasy and sugary foods, as well as placing an emphasis on eating traditional foods. Nevertheless, living like a centenarian is not only about diet, it’s an all encompassing lifestyle that focuses on moving your body, having social circles that reinforce healthy behaviours, and taking time to de-stress whether that means taking a cat nap or spending time in the sunshine.
JAIME SLAVIN is a nutritionist, registered dietician, Masters of Public Health, food educator and advocate for your health and wellbeing. JAIMESLAVIN.COM