Health and Wellness

People who live to 100 don't eat like typical Americans: Here are 'the 5 pillars of a longevity diet'

Maria Korneeva | Moment | Getty Images

There are some daily practices that may increase your chances of living to 90 and beyond – and a healthy diet is one of the most important factors on the list.

In his new book, "The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100," Dan Buettner "identified the world's longest-lived areas (blue zones) and studied the patterns and lifestyles that seem to explain their populations' longevity."

Blue zones are defined by Buettner as populations with the highest rates of living to 100 – or becoming centenarians – and the highest middle-age life expectancies. 

Across the world, these groups include communities in Japan, Italy, Greece, Costa Rica and even a Seventh Day Adventist community in California.

"The people in the blue zones live up to a decade longer than average Americans and spend a fraction of what most [of] the rest of us do on health care," Buettner wrote.

Of course, there are multiple factors to consider. Many of these communities have more opportunities to walk from place to place and tend to stress much less than most Americans. 

But, after analyzing over 150 dietary surveys that capture "the daily eating habits of people in the blue zones over the past 80 years," these were the most common foods included in their diets.

'The five pillars of a longevity diet'

Buettner found that 65% of dietary intake in blue zones came from complex carbohydrates, and these foods are "the five pillars of a longevity diet on four continents":

  1. Whole grains like corn, rice and oats (complex carb)
  2. Greens
  3. Tubers, including potatoes and yams (complex carb)
  4. Nuts
  5. Beans (complex carb)

2 quick recipes that use the healthiest foods

Here are two recipes you can try that include a combination of the foods that the healthiest communities eat:


Succotash is a staple dish in Native communities that dates back to the 1620s. Though commonly paired with fish and other meats, this version of the meal is completely plant-based.

  • 2 pounds of cooked, hulled corn
  • 8 ounces of dried cranberry beans (or Jacob's cattle beans or other similar beans), soaked and cooked until tender
  • Salt
  • You can add in turnips, carrots, squash, cabbage, onions and more.

Hoppin' John With Carolina Gold Rice and Sapelo Red Peas

Though Carolina Gold rice is a West African strain, this dish was first made by enslaved people in America. Carolina Gold rice was widely used for many years, "only to all but completely disappear after the Great Depression." Thankfully, it is now sold in grocery stores and online.

  • 1 cup of Sapelo red peas
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 cups of Carolina Gold rice

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