Of all the insights we've learned from Blue Zones (which is a lot), the connection between food and longevity is one of the most prominent. Geographically, these five regions where people regularly live to 100 or longer (Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California) couldn't be more different or far apart. But as Dan Buettner, a National Geographic researcher who's studied these regions for years, uncovered in his decades of research, a healthy diet undoubtedly plays a large role across the board.
In Sardinia and Ikaria, the Mediterranean diet reigns supreme, with fish, olive oil, and red wine a staple in centenarian kitchens. Plant-based rules in places like Okinawa and Loma Linda, where vegetables, legumes, and starches contribute to longevity. And in Costa Rica, locally grown foods, like papayas and fresh coffee, are held in high regard for healthy aging.
Good news is, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets to eat like a Blue Zone-r. Mouth-watering Ikarian stuffed grape leaves, sweet Costa Rican plantains, fresh, grilled octopus from Sardinia—all of these can be made right in your kitchen—as long as you have one of these cookbooks hanging around. Scroll to snag a Blue Zone cookbook that'll elevate your cooking game for the next 100 years.
Blue Zones cookbooks to keep in your kitchen
This is the original Blue Zones cookbook written by Dan Buettner. Published in 2019, it’s filled with recipes inspired from the five Blue Zones Buettner spent decades researching. Think: cornmeal waffles from sunny Loma Linda, California, Japanese sweet potato bites, and a hearty minestrone from Sardinia. Unlike other cookbooks, Buettner peppers in personal travel stories and nutritional benefits, inspiring you to cook, eat, and live like a real Blue Zone-r.
While this isn’t your traditional cookbook, it does dive into the role diet plays in longevity, particularly in Mediterranean areas. In this second edition, Buettner explores “longevity through stories of his travels and interviews with some of the most remarkable—and happily long-living people on the planet,” region by region. So while you might not find step-by-step instructions to your next dinner, you’ll definitely find inspiration and tips to prioritizing longevity through diet.
For fans of Mediterranean food—or those interested in dabbling—get this Greek cookbook. Written by Chef Diane Kochilas, it hones in on the culinary lifestyle of the Ikarians, who inhabit a little island in Greece. Grape leaves, olive oil, beans, lentils, tea, and of course, fish—these are the main ingredients Kochilas explores, alongside many, many more. Matched with stunning photos and local stories, and it’s almost worth skipping the plane ticket to Ikaria yourself… almost…
Or, hop on over to another Mediterranean favorite: Sardinia. “Bitter Honey” is written by Chef Letitia Clark, who is based in Sardinia and knows the ins-and-outs of the Blue Zone hot spot. The book itself is rich with Sardinian life, giving you a glimpse into the people who call the island their home and the foods that shape their world. Expect pretty photos, colorful illustrations, personal quips, and of course, mouth-water recipes that you’ll want to whip up ASAP.
Though this cookbook doesn’t hone in on Nicoya, the Costa Rican Blue Zone, it does highlight longevity-loving recipes inspired by the tropical oasis. Flick through the pages and find sumptuous recipes loaded with feel-good ingredients like black beans, rice, coffee, fish, and more. Whatever you’re in the mood for, there’s something in here that’ll tickle your tastebuds and keep you healthy in the process.
For just $8, this lil’ cookbook spotlighting Okinawa deserves a spot on your shelf. If you’re a bit intimidated by Japanese food, or if you want easy meals to make in a flash, this is the book for you. Author Kenta Kanda dives into the Okinawan diet and how its contributed to so many centenarians thriving in the Japanese island. There are recipes, nutritional advice, tips, and more to help you give these eats a whirl.
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