Health & Wellness

Secrets of longevity from 'Blue Zones': Beans, wine and best friends?

The only thing better than looking good as you age is feeling good as you age. Luckily, Dan Buettner, who joined TODAY Wednesday, has the simple secrets to help us live to a healthy 100 years old. For years, he's traveled the world in search of the places where people live the longest, and he's named these areas "blue zones." They're regions with the highest populations of centenarians.

Buettner is the author of "The Blue Zones Solution" and he's also a National Geographic Fellow. He's identified five zones as being "blue," and those are: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; the Ogliastra region of Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya, Costa Rica. With high concentrations of individuals who live to be 100 years old without preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, Buettner's research just might hold the key to the secrets of longevity. Here, he shares strategies from three important zones around the world.

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Blue Zone #1: Loma Linda, California

Strategy 1: Join a faith-based community.

Typically, people of faith live four to 14 years longer.

Strategy 2: Eat a plant-based diet and snack on nuts.

The people living in this area are adventurists and protestants, and they eat either a plant-based, vegan or pescatarian diet. And if you eat a handful of nuts every day, you might live two to three years longer than non nut eaters.

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Blue Zone #2: Sardinia, Italy

Strategy #1: Eat beans!

This is the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world: Eat a cup of beans a day.

Strategy #2: Drink cannonau wine.

In Sardinia, people drink cannanaou wine. It has one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any wines in the world and you can get it in New York for just $18. It also has three times the times of polyphenols of other wines.

Strategy #3: Honor your elders.

Unlike in America where we celebrate youth, in their culture, the older you get, the more honored you are.

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Blue Zone #3: Okinawa, Japan

Strategy #1: Eat power foods like turmeric, sweet potatoes and bitter melon.

Sweet potatoes are low glycemic index foods, contain beta cartoene and are cheap, too. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant used as both a spice and a tea. Bitter melon is a gourd that looks a lot like a warty cucumber. It also tastes just like its name sounds — bitter! And it's been shown to help regulate blood sugar.

Strategy #2: Know your purpose.

A word in Japanese called "ikiga" means "knowing your purpose." Many people in Japan volunteer, which studies have shown provides lower rates of mortality, longer lives, and happier ones, too.

Strategy #3: Keep personal connections

This one is critical. You need to have at least three friends whom you can call on a bad day. Loneliness shaves eight years off your life expectancy, and people in Okinawa proactively surround themselves with three or four other men or women. They also make a commitment to each other to be there and be a social outlet.

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