Today’s Wall Street Journal had an article written by Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People“.
Buettner found that the keys to longevity in these blue zones were diet, community, family, and exercise.
The cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world was the humble bean. One five-country study showed that beans were the only food that predicted a longer life—for each 20-gram serving (about two tablespoons) eaten a day, the chance of dying dropped by 8%. Dollar for dollar, most beans deliver more protein than beef. More important, beans’ high fiber content serves as a gut compost of sorts, enabling healthy bacteria to thrive.
Life in these communities is very social, and family is at the heart of the social network. In the U.S., you’re likely to live eight years longer if you have a strong social network, compared to someone who is lonely.
When it comes to exercise, it’s just a natural part of the day. Buettner found that people living in blue zones were engaged in physical activity every 20 minutes. Such activity burned 500 to 1,000 calories a day.
Buettner concludes that successful strategies to avoid disease and yield longevity require decades of adherence—or entire lifetimes. He recommends that for enduring gains in health in the U.S., we should shift our tactics away from trying to change individual behavior to optimizing our surroundings. We should make healthy choices not only easy, but also sometimes unavoidable—so that longevity “just happens” to Americans.
People in the blue zones lived in cultures that made the right decisions for them. They lived in places where fresh vegetables were cheap and accessible. Their kitchens were set up so that making healthy food was quick and easy. Almost every trip to the store, a friend’s house, work or school occasioned a walk.
So it seems that the key to longevity is going for walks with family and friends, after eating some beans. Just don’t walk behind them…