Turn your kitchen into a longevity hotspot by cooking and eating like people who live in Blue Zones

  • People living in Blue Zones around the world have some kitchen staples in common.

  • They use hand tools, and prioritize plant foods like vegetables, beans, and nuts.

  • You can begin transforming your own kitchen into a longevity Blue Zone with these 11 cheap tricks.

If you want to live longer, and stay healthier, Dan Buettner says the best strategy is to take it easy on yourself. Design your environment so that the automatic, natural choices you make throughout the day are healthy ones.

Buettner, who's been studying how people live in five global longevity hotspots he calls Blue Zones for the past two decades, has discovered that there's nothing remarkable about the willpower or genetics of people in Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Ikaria, Greece; or Nicoya, Costa Rica. Instead, they've set themselves up for success by surrounding themselves with the right foods, the right people, and the right routines.

The trick is to set up your environment "so you're mindlessly making slightly better decisions all day long," Buettner told Insider. "Just go to any one of the Blue Zones and see if anybody's on a diet: Nope."

In his new book, "The Blue Zones secrets for living longer" Buettner offers tips for how to make your home, from your bedroom, to your living room, yard, and kitchen, a little micro Blue Zone.

Here are a few of Buettner's cheapest, choicest tips for Blue Zoning your own kitchen:

watering windowsill herbs in the kitchen
Getty Images

Use hand tools.

Residents in Blue Zones often use traditional tools for cooking. You can do the same by reaching for a potato masher, garlic press, salad spinner or whisk when you prepare fresh food. Buettner says this is an easy way to stay moving and active as you prepare your meals. It can also turn meal prep into a more restorative and meditative experience.

Invest in an Instant Pot or other slow cooker.

One electric gadget Buettner does endorse is a Crock-Pot or other countertop cooker. He turns his on in the morning for bean soup, making healthy meal prep happen effortlessly in the background throughout the day.

Start an herb garden.

Herbs can help you incorporate more fresh flavors into your meals. If you don't have space outside, it can be a small row of containers on your kitchen windowsill.

Keep healthy foods in plain sight, and hide junk.

Instead of having chips or crackers on the counter, place a fruit bowl out or make fresh veggies available for easy snacking. "The first thing you see when you walk through your kitchen should be something healthy," Buettner writes in the book. He recommends keeping fresh produce, like fruits and vegetables, rich in nutrients like vitamins and fiber, at eye level in your refrigerator, and relegating packaged snacks to an inconvenient, hidden drawer somewhere.

Stock whole grains.

These include oats, brown rice, quinoa, and sourdough bread. Sourdough is a staple in the Blue Zone of Sardinia, and it contains beneficial bacteria that support a healthy gut. "In general, if you can squeeze a slice of bread into a ball, avoid it," Buttner says in the book.

  • sardinian woman handling sourdough bread
    On the Italian island of Sardinia, locals make sourdough bread.De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images

    Snack on a handful or two of nuts.

    One study of Seventh Day Adventists, many of whom live in the Blue Zone of Loma Linda, California, found that snacking on nuts supported heart health. Buettner recommends a handful or two a day of mixed nuts.

    Make honey your go-to sweetener.

    Traditionally, people living in the Blue Zones have barely consumed any added sugar, ingesting just a few teaspoons per day. Buettner recommends using honey because it's harder to spoon and doesn't dissolve as well as granular sugar, so you'll effortlessly consume less. On Ikaria, Greece's island Blue Zone, honey has been used for generations to ease colds and treat wounds, too.

    Befriend beans.

    Buettner says beans are the world's only true superfood. People eat them in every Blue Zone. In Costa Rica, people enjoy the "three sisters": beans, corn, and squash, which together form a complete protein. And "because beans are so hearty and satisfying, they'll likely push less healthy foods out of your diet," Buettner writes. He recommends working up to about a cup per day.

    beans readying to be cooked over the fire
    Traditional Costa Rican cooking emphasizes black beans.Getty Images

    Prefer olive oil to butter.

    In general, people in the Blue Zones don't eat too much dairy. When they do, it's often a fermented food, like yogurt, which is good for the gut.

    Swap soft drinks for tea.

    Sodas and sugar sweetened beverages are a major source of added sugar in our diets, which directly counteract longevity. If you have a sweet tooth, Buettner suggests keeping a jug of cold tea, sweetened with a little honey, in the fridge.

    Eat on smaller plates, and enjoy meals with intention.

    Buettner says this will help you mindlessly control portion sizes, abiding by the Japanese principle of hara hachi bun me, or eating until you're 80% full. Plate your meal, and sit down to enjoy it away from screens, which can encourage more mindless eating.

    As Buettner writes in the book "the idea isn't to kill the pleasures of eating but to crowd out the junk food from our daily routine with foods the longest-lived people eat — and to enjoy doing it."

Read the original article on Insider