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7 Blue Zone Foods That Help Increase Longevity

May 12, 2024

People who live in Blue Zones around the world reach age 100 an average of 10 times more frequently than people in most of the U.S. — where the average life expectancy is 77.5. Not only do people in these zones live considerably longer lives, they’re also healthier, less likely to suffer from chronic illnesses. Though it’s not the only factor, their diet is one critically important reason for this longevity. That’s why experts have studied Blue Zone foods so extensively.

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You asked: What are Blue Zone foods?

The concept of Blue Zones was originally researched by Dan Buettner, and while the Blue Zones of the world are far-flung, there’s so much we can learn from these regions. But whether we study the people of Okinawa, Japan or Icaria, Greece, there are some commonalities among the diets of these cultures:

  • Anti-inflammatory foods
  • Abundant herbs and spices
  • Locally sourced fruits and vegetables
  • Smaller, low-mercury fish
  • Very little refined sugar

To get you started, here are 7 foods popular in Blue Zones that you can emphasize in your own daily diet.

1. Legumes

plant based bean stew with tomatoes veggies and grilled bread


Of all the Blue Zone foods, legumes are incredibly important. In the Mediterranean, people tend to enjoy lentils, while Asian cuisines rely more heavily on soybeans — but either way, this is a versatile ingredient that lends itself to longevity. In fact, research has shown that regularly eating beans can reduce a person’s risk of dying by up to 9%. Soy is controversial in the wellness community, but the Okinawan diet features a lot of soy products, including miso soup and tofu.

Related: 8 Protein-Packed Veggie-Forward Edamame Recipes

2. Red wine

clinking glasses of red wine


Enjoying a glass of red wine is a common way to relax and unwind after a hard day, but red wine is also high in antioxidants, and has been shown to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

But the value of red wine is also a lot more simple than that; having social connections matters, and is part of what keeps us feeling our best. Wine is a part of many of our social and religious rituals. People in many of the blue zones have wine as a regular part of their lifestyle (and culturally, they typically don’t drink in excess).

Sardinians, for example, enjoy a local red wine nightly known as Cannonau (which is the local term for Grenache), and it has​​ two to three times as many antioxidants as many other wines. Even if you can’t get this specific type of wine where you are, you may embrace the habit of a glass of wine with dinner.

Of course, alcohol doesn’t work for everyone. If drinking red wine has more negative effects on your health than positive ones, such as hurting your sleep, focus on gathering for social connection and enjoy a mocktail instead.

Related: 7 Immune-Boosting Mocktails to Make This Summer

3. Dark leafy greens

leafy green salad with blueberries


Ikaria, Greece is known for the longevity and health of the people who live there. In fact, it was referred to as “the island where people forget to die” in Diane Kochilas’ cookbook, Ikaria. Dark leafy greens are plentiful there, are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, and contribute to a healthy diet.

A large part of the blue zone diets is the concept of “plant slant,” which is essentially emphasizing plant-based ingredients. In Ikaria, there are more than 75 varieties of greens that grow plentifully, and they’re all loaded with polyphenols. These fiber-heavy greens can also help keep you feeling full longer. To eat like an Ikarian, focus on filling your plate with vegetables and make meat and starches a smaller part of your diet.

Related: 8 Healthy Spinach Recipes That Use Up the Whole Bag

4. Blueberries

handful of blueberries

Courtesy of andrew welch on Unsplash

Fresh berries of all kinds are common Blue Zone foods, but blueberries especially have been shown to lower blood pressure and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may fight against mental decline. Eating blueberries can even improve motor skills, including coordination and balance.

The beauty of blueberries is also that they’re so versatile, whether you like adding them to your morning oatmeal or smoothies, lunchtime salads, or yogurt for an afternoon snack. When they’re out of season, you can stock up on frozen wild blueberries.

Related: 3 New Ways to Use a Bag of Frozen Blueberries

5. Olives and olive oil

man drizzling olive oil onto a salad


Sardinia is full of bountiful olive trees, and thus olive oil is a big part of the Mediterranean Diet, and the Sardinian diet specifically. We can learn a lot from this region and how the people there live — this area has 10 times as many centenarians per capita as the U.S. While exercise and community are essential to the health and vitality of this aging community, diet is a huge component as well. Olives and olive oil help fight inflammation, and there’s even some evidence that olives can protect against conditions like Alzhiemer’s.

An easy way to incorporate more olive oil into your diet is to use it in places where you might otherwise use butter, from frying your morning eggs to baked goods.

Related: 10 Mediterranean Diet Breakfast Recipes for a Good Morning

6. Corn

plant based chipotle bowl with beans corn and chickpeas


Corn is a popular ingredient in the region of Nicoya in Costa Rica, where locals use it to make their own tortillas. There are many ways to incorporate more corn into our diets, from soups to roasting, and enjoy its health benefits.

Ingredients like corn are a good source of energy, and are important for sustaining us, especially if we’re active. This doesn’t mean that heavily processed corn products are good for you — but corn itself is a healthy whole grain.

Related: 8 Frozen Corn Recipes That Use Up the Bag

7. Spices: turmeric, ginger, and garlic

Food combining: turmeric and black pepper


Spices are an important aspect of the Blue Zone Diet. They’re usually high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and actually can help fight disease. Turmeric, ginger, and garlic are some of the best examples of this.

Ginger is not only delightfully spicy, but can help us live longer and healthier thanks to removing and reducing free radical damage at the cellular level. Turmeric makes curry that iconic, bold yellow, and it’s also anti-inflammatory and can reduce oxidative stress. Garlic is delicious and fragrant, and it’s also naturally anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and immune supporting. It can help lower cholesterol production and reduce blood pressure.

Read next: 9 Longevity-Promoting Recipes from Italy’s “Blue Zone”

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