Through his research on The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner has had a uniquely positive impact on our culture’s ideas about health and wellness. Studying the habits of the world’s longest living people, Buettner has uncovered many impactful commonalities, famously recorded in his NYT’s best-selling books and work with National Geographic.
The five original Blue Zones include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California, but in his new book,The Blue Zones American Kitchen Dan takes us on a remarkable journey through the kitchens, farms, and family recipe books of our own nation and paints a picture of what the longevity diet looks like here and now.
To celebrate the new book and the man behind one of the most easily absorbable resources in wellness today, we asked Dan to join our Living Well With series. His practical notes don’t disappoint…
Name: Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones American Kitchen
My message in a nutshell: I’ve studied the cultures of the world’s longest living people (The Blue Zones) and found that if you want to lose weight or live longer don’t try to change your behavior, change your environment.
My food philosophy in one sentence: Whole food plant-based.
Daily breakfast: Sardinian Minestrone Soup A dish that is eaten every day for lunch by some of the world’s longest-lived families in Sardinia, Italy. It can be made with seasonal vegetables from the garden, but always includes beans and fregula, a toasted pebble-size semolina pasta.
Favorite moment in researching the latest book: All the meals I shared with the chefs that contributed to the book. We ate around campfires, in fields, commercial kitchens, homes, and everywhere in between. During every meal, the chefs shared their personal stories and let their history shine through their cooking (recipes and techniques).
Can’t live without my… Bicycle.
My philosophy on movement: Make it a part of your daily routine — walk to the store, bike to work, have walking meetings, use a standing desk, take the dog around the block. Read: Is Sitting As Bad As Smoking? 14 Ways To Undo The Daily Damage
Fave workout currently: Biking or walking.
Finish this sentence: I came away from making this book with… a better understanding of how the U.S. food system morphed into what it is today. I also developed a deep appreciation of the ethnically and racially diverse healthy American diets that still exist today — if you know where to look.
My daily supplements: Beans of any kind. Read: Beans 101: A Second Look At The World’s Least Sexy Plant-Based Protein
Once a week for my health I… Get happy hour with my friends (at least once a week). Read: You Had Me At Pét-Nat: The Smart Girl’s Guide To Drinking Natural Wine
Best recipe from the new book: It’s hard to pick a favorite but the one I make the most often is “The Hoppin’ John with Carolina Gold Rice and Sapelo Red Peas” by Chef Rollen Chalmers (pg. 90).
Best convenience meal I make: Again, the Sardinian minestrone! I make a big pot of it on Sundays, freeze it, and eat it for breakfast and lunch throughout the week. I also like a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread.
At least once a month I cook… Vegetarian gumbo for dinner parties. Read: The 10 Best Vegan Instant Pot Recipes On Pinterest Now
If I could give just one piece of health advice it would be… That the key to health is not a silver bullet but instead a silver buckshot. There is no fountain of youth or magic pill that we can take to live long healthy lives. It takes many small changes to create an environment the curates healthy living. And, there are populations that have achieved the outcomes we’d like.
Ingredient in products I always avoid: Added sugars and meat. I am vegetarian, but even if I did eat meat I’d be sure to avoid highly processed meats: bacon, lunch meats, hotdogs.
Crazy health idea that actually works: Find your sense of purpose. The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida”; for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
Go-to health resources: NutritionFacts.org
Health trend to skip: All of them. Fad diets and workout don’t work in the long run. Eat a whole food, plant-based diet, move daily and live out your purpose.
Simplest way to improve health: Eat more fruits and vegetables and move more.
Fave healthy getaway: Any of the original Blue Zones — Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California… I try to get to Costa Rica and Ikaria as much as possible.
My current mantra: Make the healthy choice, the easy choice.
My go-to juice, tea or smoothie: Berry smoothies — heavy on the blueberries. Read: The Blueberry Pie Smoothie You’ll Actually Love To Make