- The world’s longest-living people eat a lot of carbohydrates and almost no meat, according to a longevity researcher.
- Author Dan Buettner pioneered the idea of Blue Zones, areas where people live for up to 100 years.
- He said the key to eating for longevity is to opt for whole, plant-based foods, regardless of cuisine.
Eating more beans and less meat could add years to your life, according to a man who literally wrote the book on living to 100.
Dan Buettner has spent nearly two decades researching blue zonesareas of the world where people live longer, healthier lives, including regions of Italy, Japan, Greece, and Costa Rica.
His latest book, “The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live By 100,” focuses on the forgotten secrets of longevity in American culinary traditions, drawing on Latin American, Native American, and African American cuisines.
Regardless of country of origin, Blue Zone diets share similar patterns, Buettner told Insider.
“It’s more about the ingredients than the cooking,” he said.
Blue Zone diets share common patterns that are linked to significant health benefits, according to Buettner. They are almost entirely based on whole foods, rely heavily on plants and complex carbohydrates, and contain few if any processed foods and animal products.
“People look for a ‘superfood’ silver bullet, but the reality is that it’s the matrix of the foods we eat that come together to give us the nutrients we need to thrive,” he said.
Carbohydrates like beans and grains are the foundation of a longer life, Buettner said.
The closest thing to a superfood in Blue Zone diets isn’t an exotic ingredient, but the humble bean: cheap, accessible, and one of the easiest ways to improve your diet, according to Buettner.
“If you eat a cup of beans a day, you will live longer,” he said.
Beans are a rich source of fiber, linked to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease and other deadly diseases. When combined with whole grains like brown rice, they make a complete protein font. A recent study suggests that adding more beans and whole grains to your diet could add up to 10 years to your life.
Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash round out a Blue Zones diet with vitamins and minerals like potassium and vitamin A.
Meat, sugar, and processed foods are eaten in moderation in Blue Zone diets
People living in the Blue Zones rarely eat red meat or processed foods, according to Buettner. evidence suggests Red meat is linked to colorectal cancer and heart disease, and processed foods It can wreak havoc on our health.
Instead, Blue Zoners opt for plant-based protein sources such as nuts and seeds, legumes, and tofu.
However, it can be challenging for cut out all processed foodsso a more realistic health goal may limit them to special occasions, which is how Buettner handles her favorite candy, licorice.
“I have a piece from time to time, but I don’t keep it in the house,” he said. “People need to be able to treat themselves.”