No one knows just how long they’re going to live, but there are things that you can do to help prolong your given lifespan, like following a healthy diet and living an active lifestyle. There are also places you can live where you’re more likely to live longer. The Blue Zones, as they’re referred to, are Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece and Loma Linda, California.
“The Blue Zones refer to five areas of the world where longevity rates are longer than the average human lifespan,” says registered dietitian Sarah Schlichter. “Specifically, people reach age 100 at 10 times greater rates than in the United States.”
Maybe it’s some sort of magic that leads people in these five locations throughout the world to live longer lives, but it’s more likely that they follow active lifestyles and make healthy dietary choices.
“While genetics likely account for some of this, this is largely believed to be due to their dietary and lifestyle habits,” says Schlichter.
While we can’t all move to one of the Blue Zones, we can follow some of their eating habits to see what they do and what they never do. Here are some of the best breakfast habits to follow if you want to live like the world’s oldest people.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes it can be hard to pass up an extra serving of food if you’re eating a really delicious meal, even if you already feel full. This isn’t the best practice to follow if you’re trying to live the longest life possible, as those who live in the Blue Zones of the world, where people live the longest, rarely tend to continue eating meals after they begin to feel full.
“People in the Blue Zones are believed to follow the Confucian mantra of stopping eating when they feel 80 percent full,” says Schlichter. “Of course, to do this, they are likely eating regular, balanced meals and not allowing themselves to get too hungry either.”
You’ve definitely heard it before: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. People who live in the Blue Zones, who are 10 times more likely to live to 100 than residents of the United States, take that to heart.
According to Schlichter, “[people in the Blue Zones] also allegedly eat their smallest meal late in the afternoon or early evening, which is counterintuitive to the ways that many Americans eat.”
Plant-based diets are rising in popularity throughout the country, making this habit a bit easier to follow. The diet consists of eating mostly, or entirely, foods made from plants, which still leaves plenty of options for breakfast, like whole-wheat pancakes or sheet-pan veggies.
“A cornerstone of the Blue Zones diet is including many fruits, veggies, sweet potatoes, nuts, beans, lentils and legumes daily,” Schlichter says.
That doesn’t mean that you have to go completely vegan, as the world’s oldest people also eat meat and dairy, although at far lower levels than in the United States.
“They do eat meat, but about once a week, and they stick to a 3-4 oz serving size. They do encourage eating fish daily,” Schlichter says.
It’s hard to cut out sugar entirely, as it’s naturally found in many foods, including an abundance of fruits. But if you want to live like the world’s oldest people, it’s important to not eat excess sugars that are found in a majority of junk foods.
“Many Americans know we should reduce added sugars but don’t know where to start,” Schlichter says. “In many of the Blue Zone areas, they have less access to added sugars so it’s an easier task. Their traditional foods don’t have added sugars, except maybe the honey they add to their tea.”
She adds that the world’s oldest people do consume sugar, but it’s not a regular occurrence and it’s not added into every meal that they eat.
“People in the Blue Zones consume sugar intentionally, not by habit,” Schlichter says.
For the most part, residents in the world’s Blue Zones follow very healthy diets, but that’s not because they feel they’re being forced to follow a certain diet, or because they’re restricting themselves from eating what they really want. Instead, they celebrate the food that they’re eating in moderation, rather than banning themselves from eating certain foods.
“In the Blue Zones, they don’t worry about counting calories or reading food labels,” Schlichter says. “They eat intuitively from the land and listen to their bodies, rather than external signals of the diet culture around them.”
When you’re trying to emulate the world’s oldest people while making breakfast, you should use ingredients that you enjoy in moderation, and enjoy your breakfast rather than being concerned about what diet you should be following.
“Here in the US, we are bombarded with new diets all the time, and reasons why we should eat one way, or cut out foods entirely,” Schlichter says.