41 Inspiring Quotes from The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest

Blue Zones Quotes Dan Buettner Longevity

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“Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.”


I’ve known about the “Blue Zones” for a while. You’ve probably heard about them too.

If you’re not familiar with the term, the Blue Zones refer to 5 places in the world where the highest proportions of people reach the age of 100 or more, with fewer old-age-related diseases. These people tend to live full, active lives until they die, usually passing peacefully in their sleep.

The 5 Blue Zones

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Loma Linda, California (the 7th Day Adventist Population)
  • Okinawa, Japan

I’ve always been intrigued by the effects that food and lifestyle have on health, so Blue Zone-related articles have been popping up in my feed for quite a few years now (thank you Google algorithm).

But, even after reading all the articles and taking the “Live Longer, Better” longevity quiz on the Blue Zones website, I never read the original book by Dan Buettner––The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.

Maybe it was a curiosity for more details, but more likely it was because my sister recently had a cancer scare coupled with the fact that I had been sick for over a week with allergies and a cold. In between cups of hot herbal tea, I snuggled under the covers and clicked “Download to Kindle.”

What I loved about the book: it was enlightening due to the more detailed accounts of the team’s research and interviews with the world’s longest-lived people, and I found their lives and stories motivating. Before I reached the end, I was ready to start incorporating Blue Zone practices into my own day-to-day life.

What I didn’t love about the book, but was okay with: Buettner’s writing can be repetitive and, at times, is a little heavy-handed with the descriptive writing. But other than that minor quibble, it’s a quick, mostly enjoyable read.

The lessons from the Blue Zones’ lifestyles aren’t exactly earth-shattering, but that’s because these daily practices or regimens are common sense. And yet, for all our “sense” we don’t typically live this way, especially in America.

We know exercise is good for us, so we either join a gym and rarely go or work out so hard in one day that we can’t keep up with the program we’ve set for ourselves. But this isn’t the Blue Zones way. Exercise should come naturally, as part of our day-to-day lives.

Then there’s the advice to be mostly vegetarian. Most people would agree that vegetarians tend to be healthier and suffer from fewer diseases. So, we try to go vegetarian for a while. But instead of implementing more fresh fruits and vegetables, the vegetarian items too often come in the form of gobs of dairy and overly processed foods. Vegetarian? Yes. Healthy? Not really.

While we all love the quick fix, the magic bullet pill to vanquish all our problems, the key to longevity is actually longevity, and by that I mean sticking to healthier practices for longer than a week. Tweaking your daily life with more natural exercise practices that go easy on your joints, eating less-processed foods, destressing and prioritizing mental health for a few moments each day, and finding and pursuing a purpose that brings you joy.

Dan Buettner distills the lifestyle practices of each Blue Zone into “The Power 9.”

  1. Move Naturally
  2. Have a Purpose
  3. Down Shift to Shed Stress
  4. 80% Rule: “Hara Hachi Bu” (Stop eating when you’re 80% full)
  5. Plant Slant (Eat mostly vegetarian with beans as your primary protein)
  6. Wine at 5:00 (Drink alcohol moderately and regularly with food and shared with friends and family)
  7. Belong to a community
  8. Put loved ones and family first
  9. Right Tribe: Cultivate your friendships and carve out time to spend with them regularly

To gain a clearer understanding of these “Power 9” principles, I’ve pulled together my:

41 Top Quotes from The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner

1. “Mostly I’ve always tried to remember that when you get good things from life, enjoy them, because they won’t be there forever.” Giovanni Sannai, 103 years old at the time (pg. 57)

2. “Walking five miles a day or more provides the type of low-intensity exercise that yields all the cardiovascular benefits you might expect, but it also has a positive effect on muscles and bones—without the joint-pounding damage caused by running marathons” Dan Buettner (pg. 60)

3. “The Sardinian diet was lean and largely plant-based with an emphasis on beans, whole wheat, and garden vegetables, often washed down with flavonoid-rich Cannonau wine.” Dan Buettner (pg. 60)

4. “How often do our hard-pressed lives allow us to take the time to appreciate the subtle beauty around us? Sardinians have the presence of mind to savor what they have—and perhaps they are calmed by this.” Dan Buettner (pg. 61)

5. “purpose and love are essential ingredients in all Blue Zone recipes for longevity.” Dan Buettner (pg. 62)

6. “in traditional Asian thought, the highest, most honored form of medicine was prevention, and the lowest was treatment.” Dan Buettner (pg. 69)

7. “The idea of retirement never occurred to the Okinawan peasant. To this day there’s not a word for it in their language.” Dan Buettner (pg. 81).

8. “I asked Kamada to describe her morning routine. “I wake up at about 6 a.m. and make a pot of jasmine tea and eat my breakfast—usually miso soup with vegetables. Then,” she pointed toward her door, “I go to the sacred grove to pray for the health of the village and thank the gods for making it safe.” Dan Buettner (pg. 82)

9. “Okinawa may be the only human population that purposefully restricts how many calories they eat, and they do it by reminding themselves to eat until they’re 80 percent full. That’s because it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it is full. Undereating, as the theory goes, slows down the body’s metabolism in a way such that it produces less damaging oxidants—agents that rust the body from within.” Dan Buettner (pg. 83)

10. “Eat your vegetables, have a positive outlook, be kind to people, and smile.” Kamada Nakazato, 102 at the time (pg. 84)

11. “Turmeric is one-fifth as powerful as cisplatin, which is one of the most powerful drugs in chemotherapy. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer. This comes back to inflammation. Many age-related diseases are caused by an immune system out of balance. Excessive or unnecessary inflammation accelerates heart disease, bone loss, Alzheimer’s disease.” Dan Buettner (pg. 94)

12. “you don’t just wake up one day and have cancer. It’s a process, not an event. And prevention is the same way; it has to be a daily activity.” Dan Buettner (pg. 95)

13. “Embrace an ikigai. Older Okinawans can readily articulate the reason they get up in the morning. Their purpose- imbued lives gives them clear roles of responsibility and feelings of being needed well into their 100s. Rely on a plant-based diet. Older Okinawans have eaten a plant-based diet most of their lives. Their meals of stir-fried vegetables, sweet potatoes, and tofu are high in nutrients and low in calories. Goya, with its antioxidants and compounds that lower blood sugar, is of particular interest. While centenarian Okinawans do eat some pork, it is traditionally reserved only for infrequent ceremonial occasions and taken only in small amounts.” Dan Buettner (pg. 118)

14. “Get gardening. Almost all Okinawan centenarians grow or once grew a garden. It’s a source of daily physical activity that exercises the body with a wide range of motion and helps reduce stress. It’s also a near-constant source of fresh vegetables.” Dan Buettner (pg. 118).

15. “Enjoy the sunshine. Vitamin D, produced by the body when it’s exposed on a regular basis to sunlight, promotes stronger bones and healthier bodies. Spending time outside each day allows even senior Okinawans to have optimal vitamin D levels year-round.” Dan Buettner (pg. 120)

16. “Stay active. Older Okinawans are active walkers and gardeners. The Okinawan household has very little furniture; residents take meals and relax sitting on tatami mats on the floor. The fact that old people get up and down off the floor several dozen times daily builds lower body strength and balance, which help protect against dangerous falls.” Dan Buettner (pg. 120)

17. “we found that women who consumed tomatoes at least three or four times a week reduced their chances of getting ovarian cancer by 70 percent over those who ate tomatoes less often.” Dan Buettner (pg. 131)

18. “I found that when you are depressed, that’s when you do something for somebody else.” Dan Buettner (pg. 145)

19. “A combination of four types of exercise will keep the body balanced and strong. Endurance: Activities like walking, hiking, swimming, and cycling improve the health of the cardiovascular system. Strength: Lifting weights builds up and maintains muscles. Flexibility: Stretching keeps us limber and flexible. Balance: Practicing balance through activities like yoga will help avoid falls” Dan Buettner (pg. 155)

20. “Studies have found that a belly laugh a day may keep the doctor away. In 2005, researchers at the University of Maryland showed that laughter helped relax blood vessels, linking it to healthier function and a possible decreased risk of heart attack. Others have found that laughter may lower blood pressure and increase the amount of disease-fighting cells found in the body.” Dan Buettner (pg. 162).

21. “Get regular, moderate exercise. The Adventist Health Survey (AHS) shows that you don’t need to be a marathoner to maximize your life expectancy. Getting regular, low-intensity exercise like daily walks appears to help reduce your chances of having heart disease and certain cancers.” Dan Buettner (pg. 164)

22. “Snack on nuts. Adventists who consume nuts at least five times a week have about half the risk of heart disease and live about two years longer than those who don’t. At least four major studies have confirmed that eating nuts has an impact on health and life expectancy.” Dan Buettner (pg. 166)

23. “Put more plants in your diet. Nonsmoking Adventists who ate 2 or more servings of fruit per day had about 70 percent fewer lung cancers than nonsmokers who ate fruit only once or twice a week. Adventists who ate legumes such as peas and beans 3 times a week had a 30 to 40 percent reduction in colon cancer. Adventist women who consumed tomatoes at least three or four times a week reduced their chance of getting ovarian cancer by 70 percent over those who ate tomatoes less often. Eating a lot of tomatoes also seemed to have an effect on reducing prostate cancer for men.” Dan Buettner (pg. 166)

24. “Drink plenty of water. The AHS suggests that men who drank 5 or 6 daily glasses of water had a substantial reduction in the risk of a fatal heart attack—60 to 70 percent—compared to those who drank considerably less.” Dan Buettner (pg. 166).

25. “Getting enough sleep keeps the immune system functioning smoothly, decreases the risk of heart attack, and recharges the brain. Adults both young and old need between 7 to 9 hours per night. To help get it, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up the same time each morning; keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool; and use a comfortable mattress and pillows.” Dan Buettner (pg. 183)

26. “Indeed, in every Blue Zone, centenarians possess a strong sense of purpose. In Okinawa it was ikigai—the reason to wake up in the morning. Here, said Fernández, the Costa Ricans called it plan de vida.” Dan Buettner (pg. 190)

27. “Eat a light dinner. Eating fewer calories appears to be one of the surest ways to add years to your life. Nicoyans eat a light dinner early in the evening.” Dan Buettner (pg. 223)

28. “Keep hard at work. Centenarians seem to have enjoyed physical work all of their lives. They find joy in everyday physical chores.” Dan Buettner (pg. 223).

29. “Ikarians eat a version of the Mediterranean diet, a menu rich in olive oil and vegetables, low in dairy and meat, with some alcohol daily. On Ikaria, it also includes an abundance of potatoes (which grow well in the rocky soil), goat milk, beans, and some fruit. Also, Ikarians seasonally gather many of the more than 150 varieties of greens that grow wild in Greece for salads or to bake into pies. Some of these greens contain more than ten times as many antioxidants as red wine. In the villages, they drink “mountain tea” every day, sometimes as a medicine but mostly as an end-of-the-day cocktail, usually made from whatever herbs or greens happen to be in season.” Dan Buettner (pg. 235)

30. “They exercised mindlessly, by just gardening, walking to their neighbor’s house, or doing their own yard work. The lesson to us: Engineer more mindless movement into our lives by living in neighborhoods with sidewalks, owning a bike that works, and planting a garden each spring.” Dan Buettner (pg. 258)

31. “Caloric restriction—a type of fasting that cuts about 30 percent of calories out of the normal diet—is the only proven way to slow the aging process in mammals. Regularly and moderately reducing calories, either as part of a diet or as part of religious practice, may yield some of the same longevity benefits Ikarians enjoy.” Dan Buettner (pg. 260)

32. “Research shows that if you dedicate yourself to a new practice for as little as five weeks, the practice is more likely to become a habit.” Dan Buettner (pg. 265)

33. “Don’t try more than three secrets at a time. If you work on all nine once, you’ll be more likely to fail. Start with three that have the best chance of success, and then gradually add more as a pattern of success emerges.” Dan Buettner (pg. 266)

34. “Be active without having to think about it…The overall goal is to get into the habit of doing at least 30 minutes (ideally at least 60 minutes) of exercise at least five times a week. It doesn’t have to be all at once, although that seems to be better.” Dan Buettner (pg. 267-268)

35. “Put the scale in your way so you can’t avoid a daily weigh-in. In fact, weighing yourself is one of the most surefire ways to reduce your weight and keep it off in the long run. One study that followed 3,026 women who were trying to lose weight and keep it off found that after 2 years, women who weighed themselves daily lost an average of 12 pounds. Women who never weighed in actually gained an average of 5 pounds. In other words, at the end of 2 years, women who weighed themselves every day were (on average) about 17 pounds lighter than the women who never weighed themselves.” Dan Buettner (pg. 274)

36. “Making a habit of eating only while sitting down—eating purposefully—better enables us to appreciate the tastes and textures of our food.” Dan Buettner (pg. 274)

37. “Eat four to six vegetable servings daily. Blue Zone diets always include at least two vegetables at each meal…Lead with beans. Beans are a cornerstone of each of the Blue Zone diets. Make beans—or tofu—the centerpiece of lunches and dinners… Eat nuts every day. The Adventist Health Study shows that it doesn’t matter what kind of nuts you eat to help extend your life expectancy.” Dan Buettner (pg. 279)

38. “Why do you get up in the morning? Consider what you’re passionate about, how you enjoy using your talents, and what is truly important to you…Learn something new. Take up a musical instrument or learn a new language. Both activities are among the most powerful things you can do to preserve your mental sharpness.” Dan Buettner (pg. 283)

39. “Reduce the noise. Minimizing time spent with television, radio, and the Internet can help reduce the amount of aural clutter in your life.” Dan Buettner (pg. 286)

40. “Be early. Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to every appointment. This one practice minimizes the stress that arises from traffic, getting lost, or underestimating travel time. It allows you to slow down and focus before a meeting or event.” Dan Buettner (pg. 287)

41. “We can live a shorter life with more years of disability, or we can live the longest possible life with the fewest bad years. As my centenarian friends showed me, the choice is largely up to us.” Dan Buettner (pg. 298)

Blue Zones Quote Dan Buettner

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