The Blue Zones Solution

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  • [status:: read]
  • [rating:: 5]
  • [added:: 2022-11-16]
  • [started:: 2022-12-07]
  • [read:: 2023-01-04]


Plenty of books on diet have been written. This might be the only one that made the Air Force Chief of Staff recommended reading list. This in itself speaks to the credibility and importance of this book’s message.

Blue Zones are geographical areas where people live unusually long and healthy lives. The author presents each of those Blue Zones and compiles important commonalities. He goes on to explain why these factors matter and how to implement them in a healthier diet and lifestyle.

This book has been really well written. The book has been succinct, yet didn’t leave out details. It is actionable but doesn’t omit relevant research. It presents you with options, not with legalistic dietary prescriptions. Most of all, it’s hopeful and friendly. It lays out ideas how to transform communities and your individual lifestyle.

It’s had a big personal impact on me. From reading about each blue zones, one of the common patterns is quite obvious: A mostly plant-based diet.

I’ve been flirting with going vegetarian for some time. Seeing the significant impact it has on health lead me to finally go for it. It was one significant reason in many (going vegetarian).

Overall, a 5 star rating from me. A book that was highly informative while keeping a conversational and friendly tone. It was comprehensive in that it treated personal as well as community-wide change.

A great read, and makes not only the Air Force Chief of staff list, but also my recommended reading list!

Four determinants of well-being

  1. Whole foods, plant based diet (naturally low in fat and sugar)
  2. Practicing stress management techniques
  3. Moderate exercise (eg walking)
  4. Social support and community

According to Dean Ornish.

Five high age and health places

  • Ikaria, Greece (world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and dementia)
  • Okinawa, Japan (home to the world’s longest-lived women)
  • Ogliastra, Sardinia (highest concentration of centarian men)
  • Loma Linda, California (Seventh Day Adventists)
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica (lowest rate of middle-age mortality, second highest concentration of centarian men)

Power Nine Rules

  1. Move naturally. Live in environments that nudge to walk.
  2. Purpose. Ikigai, why you get up in the morning.
  3. Downshift. Habita to shed stress.
  4. 80% rule. Stop when you’re 80% full.
  5. Plant Slant. Beans as the diet cornerstone.
  6. Wine at Five. Moderate Drinking.
  7. Right tribe. Supportive social structures.
  8. Community. 258 of 263 centarians belonged to a faith-based community.
  9. Loved Ones First. Invest in family.

Ikaria, Greece

  • 50% of calories come from fat, but more than half of that is olive oil which had positive health factor is multiple studies
  • meat or chicken only once or twice a week, and even less before that when longevity took root
  • non-health factors: napping (The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life). Regular napping (5d/week) decreases risk of heart disease by 37%
  • surprising healthy foods:
    • Potatoes. They almost eat them daily, recent study associates multiple health benefits. Unless you fry or load them with sour cream of course.
    • Lemon: Good for blood glucose.

Okinawa, Japan

Healthy foods:

  • Tofu. Helps protect the heart and women from breast cancer.
  • Sweet Potato. Antiaging properties. The purple is even better.
  • Garlic. “One of nature’s most powerful medicines”
  • Tumeric. Slows dementia.
  • Seaweed
  • Green Tea

Sardinia, Italy

  • In most parts of the world, for every man who lives up to 100, five wonen do as well. But here the ratio is one to one.
  • Shepherds doing mild regular exercise lived longer than farmers, who worked in intense stints.

Longevity foods:

  • Goat & Sheep Milk. Higher in nutrition and more easily digestable than cow’s milk.
  • Flat bread made out of whole durun grain. (carta di muscia and pane carasau)
  • Barley bread. Highly associated with reaching 100.
  • Sourdough Bread

Loma Linda, California

  • Adventists attribute their diet to 29

”All human tastes, except mother’s milk are acquired. You start by eating a little bit of a plant-based diet and you grow with it. You keep eating and pretty soon you start to enjoy it” —Wareham

Comparing diets

  • Meat-eaters tend to drink more soft drinks, refined wheat and desserts than vegetarians.
  • Compare two men of equal height, one vegan and one a meat eater. Meat eater is likely to weight 9kg more.
  • Vegans and pesco-vegetarians lived longest

Longevity foods

  • Avocados
  • Salmon
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Water
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat bread

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

  • Maize Nixtamal, lime and water soaked corn ground into flour. This preparation releases niacin.
  • Squash
  • Papayas
  • Black Beans
  • Bananas

Creating a Blue Zone anywhere

  • Blue Zone inhabitants don’t force themselves to eat right. They live in an environment that supports it. Fresh food is available, burgers and soft drinks are hard to find. Movement is a shared way of live. This idea has been expressed in a similar way in Atomic Habits:
    • Rule 2, “Make it attractive”: Be a part of a culture where your desired outcome is the default. Healthy behaviour is what everyone does in Blue Zones, to be unhealthy you’d have to go against the grain.
    • Rule 3, “Make it easy”: Fresh and unprocessed food is readily available, unhealthy food isn’t advertised. Grabbing a fresh papaya from the tree is easy.

Finland’s miracle makeover

In 1972, middle-aged men in North Karelia, Finland had the highest rates of death by heart attack in the world.

A man named Pekka Puska pioneered a strategy that reduced cardiovascular mortality by 80% in the following decades.

”Seven Countries Study”: The more north someone lived, the more animal products they consumed, the more heart attacks they suffered.

The number of people dying of heart disease is directly proportional to the average blood pressure of the population. For every percentage point you lower cholesterol in the population, you lower heart disease by two points.

Ecology of Health

Focus on the local environment rather than individual responsibility.

Vitality Compass

Creating your blue zones

  • Breakfast like a king
    • Studies show eating majority of calories early is healthier
    • maximum three meals a day
  • Hara Hachi Bu: Stop eating when you’re 80 percent full.
    • Say grace
  • Fast
    • Do that together with others
    • even a 8h eating / 16h fasting is healthy
  • Eat slow
    • When you eat alone, just eat. No phone, no reading, no TV.
  • Celebrate and enjoy food


Science based and long-term study

  • Carbs

    • More
      • Beans
      • Greens/Veggies
      • Fruits (2-3x/day)
      • Nuts
      • Whole grains
    • Less
      • Potatoes
      • Sweets
      • Chips (1x/week)
      • Soda (1x/week)
  • Fats

    • More
      • Olive oil
      • Nuts
    • Less
      • Meat
      • Trans Fat
  • Proteins

    • More
      • Beans
      • Tofu
      • Greens
    • Less
      • Meat
      • Fish
      • Dairy
  • Plant Slant: 95% of food to come from plant or plant product

  • Two times per week meet or less

  • Meat substitutes: Sauteed tofu, tempeh, black bean or chickpea cakes

  • Fish: Adventists who lived longest were vegans- or pesco-vegetarians

    • Favor trout, snapper, grouper, sardines, anchovies
    • avoid predator like swordfish, shark or tuna
  • Diminish Dairy

    • In the human diet, dairy is a relative newcomer (8,000 to 10,000 years)
    • Try unsweetened soy, coconut, or almond milk as dairy alternative
  • Three eggs per week

    • From cage-free pastured chicken
  • At least ½ cup of beans daily * Beans have been part of the human diet for at least 8,000 years * 1–21 mentions beans to make children healthier

    • avoid white flour tortillas, go for corn tortillas
  • Avoid sugar

    • ”Soft drink consumption may account for 50 percent of America’s weight gain since 1970”
  • Bread

    • Whole grain or sourdough (sourdough lowers glycemic load of whole meals, making everything be digested slower)

Four Always, Four to Avoid

Four Always

  • 100% whole wheat bread
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Fruits

Four to avoid

  • Sugar sweetened beverages
  • Salty snacks
  • Processed meats
  • Packaged sweets

Protein Pairings

Quick and Easy Snacks

• 1½ cups cooked edamame sprinkled with soy sauce

1/4 cup walnuts plus 1½ cups cooked edamame

Low-Calorie Combos

• 1⅓ cups chopped red peppers plus 3 cups cooked cauliflower

2 cups chopped carrots plus 1 cup cooked lentils

3 cups cooked mustard greens plus 1 cup cooked chickpeas • 2 cups cooked carrots plus 1 cup lima beans

. 1 cup cooked black-eyed peas plus 1¼ cup cooked sweet yellow corn

Extra-Filling Dishes

1¼ cups cooked brown rice plus 1 cup cooked chickpeas

1½ cups cooked broccoli rabe plus 1⅓ cup cooked wild rice

• ⅔ cup extra firm tofu plus 1 cup cooked brown rice ½ cup firm tofu plus 1¼ cup cooked soba noodles



  • Whole grain cooked cereal
    • Whole grain steel cut oatmeal
    • Add
      • Nuts
      • dried fruits
      • tbsp nut butter
      • flaxseed
      • fresh fruit
      • coconut oil
      • plain non-dairy milk w/o added sugar
  • Smoothie
  • beans for breakfast


  • Wraps
    • Mayo
    • sliced or grilled onion

12: Design healthy living

”For every hour we sit, we lose about 22 minutes of life expectancy.”


  • Dinner plates no larger than 10 inches
  • Keep junk food out of the way
  • Family style makes you eat more. Dish here, dine there
  • full fresh fruit bowl in center of kitchen


  • Dim lights an hour before sleep


  • Weight yourself
    • Studies found that the mire frequently you weight yourself, the more weight you loose

We mimick the people around us (as Atomic Habits – An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones points out as well). Assessing current circle of friends: Do they smoke?

  • Are they overweight because of bad health behavior?
  • Do they drink more than two drinks a day?
  • Do they eat a mostly plant-based diet?
  • Do they cook at home?
  • Do they favor junk food or whole food?
  • Are they usually upbeat or do they like to complain?
  • Is their idea of recreation watching TV or an outdoor activity?
  • Are they curious about the world?
  • Do they listen as well as talk?
  • Are they engaged with the world and encourage your engagement?
  • Are they tied to routine or interested in new activities?
  • Do you feel better around them than when you’re not?


Spicy Bean Burgers

  • 4 cups cooked and drained pinto beans
  • ¾ cup fresh whole grain bread crumbs
  • up 1 tbsp Tabasco
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • optional:
    • ½ avocado salsa or pico de gallo
    • 4 wholegrain hamburger buns
    • 4 small romaine lettuce leaves
    • 4 green bell pepper slices
    • 4 thin red onion rings
  1. Put beans, bread crumbs, Tabasco, garlic, Worcestershire, cumin and salt in large bowl. Blend with a potato masher into smooth paste. Cover and refrigerate for 30mins.
  2. Use clean, wet hands to form patties. Grill for about 6min, turning once.

Books mentioned

  • Veganist — Kathy Freston