Integrative Medicine Blog

​Get in the Blue Zone to Support Longevity!

Holly J. Niles MS, CNS, LDN Sunday, July 08, 2018
Istock-fava beans

Why do some cultures live healthy lives into their 100s? One National Geographic reporter/explorer talks about Blue Zones. Recipe to follow.

I recently heard an interview with Dan Buettner, Author of Blue Zones. As a National Geographic reports/explorer, he studies and focused on 5 areas of the world where people easily live healthy lives into their 100s. From his research, he distilled shared similarities in each culture that seem to support longevity. To kick off your summer, here are a couple that are easily added to our daily lives.

  1. 80% rule: The Okinawan people have a mantra they say before meals to remind them to stop eating when they are 80% full. That 20% difference could be a great support to both easing digestion and losing or maintaining weight. People in the Blue Zones also eat a smaller dinner with no after dinner treats. Summer is a great time to lighten up on eating with warmer days and more time outside.
  2. PLANTS are key: Beans are the main theme in diets of most Blue Zone centenarians. As a plant protein, they are high in fiber and very affordable. On the other hand, animal products are lower in portion size in those same diets. With all our summer parties and barbecues, it’s a good idea to review our portions of meat and add some bean dips and salad to balance our meals.

There is so much power to affect our health with our food choices. Looking at Blue Zone cultures is a great way to learn from those who seem to have made that connection to their food to create long term health.

Easy tip:

Use a smaller plate for meals to notice if you are eating more food to fill your plate rather than your appetite. You can easily create that 20% gap between hungry and full by changing how you serve your food.

Summer Recipe: Add this salad to your summer recipes and connect to the Blue Zone principles.

Avocado & Fava Bean Salad


  • ½ cup fresh fava beans, shelled and peeled
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups sunflower sprouts
  • ½ cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Juice ½ small lemon
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup large shavings of Parmesan, optional or can use goat/sheep cheese
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Prepare a small pot of salted boiling water and a small bowl of ice water.
  2. Drop the fava beans into the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the beans and immediately immerse in the ice water to stop the cooking process. Keep in the ice water long enough to cool completely, about 15 seconds.
  4. Drain and place on paper towels to dry.
  5. Thinly slice the fennel (using a mandolin, if you have one).
  6. Place the fennel slices into a large bowl with the sunflower sprouts, chickpeas, and fava beans.
  7. Drizzle the salad with olive oil, the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Toss the salad, then add the avocado, almonds, and Parmesan shavings and gently toss again.
  9. Taste and adjust seasonings.