These 7 Foods Will Help You Live Longer, Healthier And Happier

The new Netflix docuseries on Blue Zones has us reconsidering what we’re eating.
SrdjanPav via Getty Images

The diet of the world’s Blue Zones, areas where people have the most centenarians (those who live healthily to over 100), is trending on social media after a new Netflix docuseries on the topic has been released.

The series Live To 100: The Secrets Of The Blue Zones, led by the founder of the Blue Zones concept, Dan Buettner, sees him travel to the world’s five Blue Zones — Loma Linda, California, US, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, Sardinia, Italy, Ikaria, Greece and Okinawa, Japan — to reveal the secrets of their diet and lifestyles.

Not only are the older people in these regions living to 100, but they’re doing so healthily — dying less often of lifestyle-related diseases — working well into their 60s, 70s and 80s, which gives them a sense of purpose (or ‘ikigai’ in Japan), socialising within their community, and enjoying a glass of vino or two while they’re at it. It seems idyllic.

In the new series, a few key principles are highlighted as ‘must follows’. Here’s what Buettner has learned from the Blue Zones that you can try to implement in your own day to day…

80% rule

When visiting Okinawa, Buettner discovered that the Japanese people often say the phrase ‘hara hachi bu’ before eating, which roughly translates as stop eating when you’re 80% full.

This actually makes sense when it comes to the science. Research shows that there’s actually a lag time between when your brain registers that you’re full, and you actually being full and satiated.

When following this concept, you’re more likely to enjoy your food mindfully and not eat to the point of being totally stuffed.

Eat mostly plants

The findings from across all five Blue Zones regions show that, for optimal health, it’s best to eat 90-95% plant-based whole foods. Sorry, meat lovers!

A study conducted on 96,000 Seventh Day Adventists in the US found that the people who lived the longest were vegans or pesco vegetarians.


When Buettner heads to Ikaria, Greece, he learns about how the elders there utilise natural herbs, usually brewed into teas and used in cooking, for their health-boosting properties.

Speaking to one woman, he asks which herbs she makes tea from. “Sage tea, rosemary tea, common mallow,” she lists.

*Notes those down for my next big shop*

Buettner explains why they’re so beneficial: “Drinking herbal teas, especially when you do it for decades, has a litany of benefits, and one of them actually might be lower rates of dementia.”

“They’re all anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and they often contain diuretics, which lower blood pressure,” he explains. He credits herbal teas, as simple as they are, as being part of why the island’s older generations live so long.

Swap sugar for honey

This is one of the easiest ones on the list — instead of making coffee, tea or porridge with granulated sugar, opt for natural honey instead. And try and get some that’s locally made, to make sure it’s not boiled (some supermarket versions are), as this can reduce the benefits.

Locally-made honey also has the added benefit of containing local pollen, which can help if you struggle with hay fever symptoms.

Beans, beans they’re good for the heart… (literally)

Buettner says that beans are “the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world: black beans in Nicoya; lentils, garbanzo, and white beans in the Mediterranean; and soybeans in Okinawa,” and recommends that you eat a handful-sized portion a day.

“People in the blue zones eat at least four times as many beans as Americans do on average,” he says.

Enjoy a tipple

Is some wine every day good or bad for you? The former, says Dan Buettner — hurrah! But hold up… he’s not talking about downing 14 Espresso Martinis at the weekend and blacking out. But he did find that in the world’s Blue Zones, especially in Sardinia, they will enjoy one or two glasses of good-quality red wine (often made nearby) that boasts a good polyphenol profile.

Pay attention to food combination

The combination of sweetcorn, beans and squash that the people of Nicoya, Costa Rica eat has been termed the ‘three sisters’ by Buettner due to how the three plant-based foods combined provide all the essential amino acids needed to form a complete protein, something that’s usually only food in meat.

So, there you have it — some simple nutritional lifestyle tweaks that you can start making today to help up your chances of living a longer, healthier life. I think I’ll start with the couple of glasses of wine tonight…