, 2022-12-06 06:02:27,
What’s the secret to living an extra 10 years? It’s never one thing. Rather, it’s a set of environmental factors that reinforce each other and that keep people reflexively doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things for long enough not to develop chronic diseases. For the past 20 years writing for National Geographic, I’ve identified and studied the world’s longest-lived areas, which I call blue zones. These places—Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaría, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and the Seventh-day Adventist communities in Loma Linda, California—have the most centenarians and the highest middle-age life expectancy. Why? Residents live purposeful lives in walkable settings that keep people naturally active and socially connected. And they eat a diet that’s largely plant-based whole foods.
In 2019, as the COVID pandemic set in, photographer David McLain and I hatched the idea of searching for an American blue-zones diet. Thinking that our great-grandparents may have eaten similarly to people in the original blue zones, we searched for dietary surveys conducted in the early 1900s. To our dismay, we found that our own ancestors (who immigrated from northern and central Europe) brought their cows, pigs, and pickles with them.
Determined to find what food traditions other cultures, Indigenous and immigrant, had brought to the American table, we crisscrossed the country to find people who could tell us about these foods.
Here’s what we discovered: There is…
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