Secrets to Healthy Aging From “Blue Zone” Regions

May 20, 2024 at 5:37 p.m.
Flan with berries, image courtesy Grace O
Flan with berries, image courtesy Grace O Grace O

Research has shown that cuisine from Blue Zone regions contributes to enhanced well-being and longevity


As we age, the prevalence of chronic diseases is on the rise. While genetics play a role in determining lifespan and disease susceptibility, lifestyle choices exert a more significant influence. Certain regions around the globe, referred to as "Blue Zones," have garnered attention for their remarkable attributes. Coined by author Dan Buettner during his exploration of areas known for longevity and low rates of chronic illness, the term denotes specific geographic locales where residents enjoy extended lifespans and exceptional health.


Grace O, the visionary behind FoodTrients, derives her philosophy of graceful, healthy aging from the dietary practices observed in the vibrant Blue Zone regions. 


One “Blue Zone” Grace has focused on is Loma Linda, a city within San Bernardino County, California, with just over 24,000 residents. It is one of five regions in the world where the population has notably exceptional longevity. Loma Linda is a unique Blue Zone for many reasons; it is the only Blue Zone located in the U.S. and is also far less geographically isolated than the rest.


Loma Linda has one of the largest concentrations of Seventh-day Adventists in the world. Members of this religion see health as a central part of their faith. Much of the longevity of this population has been attributed to plant-based dietary habits, regular exercise, and abstinence from caffeine, smoking, and alcohol. This tight-knit community in California historically outlives the average American by ten years.


Members of this community consume a predominantly plant-based diet and believe this diet is the original diet intended for humans. Some consume a vegan diet while others consume a vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, or a more flexitarian version of a plant-based diet. For those that choose to consume meat, Adventists recommend consuming it in small, side-dish sized portions. In general, they consume a well-balanced diet focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and limit salt, sugar, herbs, and refined grains.


Embracing a "blue zone" lifestyle often involves harnessing the power of herbs and spices to elevate culinary experiences. For the California “blue zone” Grace has selected a few drought-tolerant herbs that thrive in Southern California's climate and can be grown in any home garden. These herbs enrich dishes with their robust flavors.

Sage: can be used to flavor oils, marinades, and pasta. It has been used in folk remedies to treat conditions like heartburn and digestive issues.

Rosemary: can be used in the kitchen in a variety of ways – to flavor breads, soups, oils, and cookies.

Oregano: a versatile and easy-to-grow plant, it pairs well with basil and can be used fresh or dried to flavor pasta dishes, soups, and sauces.

You don’t need to live in Loma Linda to implement longevity habits from this unique community. Consider dedicating a day, or even a couple hours one day a week, to rest. Focus on more plant-based foods in your diet and consider a vegan, vegetarian, or simply more flexitarian plan for yourself. 


Try this dessert recipe from Grace O’s Anti-Aging Dishes from Around the World cookbook utilizing elements of a Blue Zone diet and perfect for spring:


Blue Zone Ripple Flan with Berries

Serves 4-6


Ripple is a non-dairy, nut-free milk made from pea protein. It’s popular in California and in the Blue Zone of Loma Linda. It’s available in some markets and on Amazon. With a little creativity, it can be used to make a non-dairy flan. I’ve used dark agave syrup in place of caramel for a more natural and less processed ingredient. Other dairy free milk such as soy, oat, or almond milk can also be used. 



Ripple non-dairy milk has half the sugar of cow’s milk but more calcium because it is fortified. It also contains protein for muscle and bone health, and omega-3 fatty acids for heart health.



⅓ cup dark agave syrup* (or Monk fruit sweetener)

2 whole eggs

6 egg yolks

2 cups Ripple Unsweetened Original non-dairy milk

½ cup coconut sugar (or monk fruit sweetener)

2 tsp. lime zest



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a pot, add the agave syrup and simmer over low heat until reduced to half. Pour into 2 metal flan molds or a 4 by 6-inch oven-proof glass baking dish. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the whole eggs and the 6 egg yolks with the milk and sugar.

4. Using a fine strainer, strain the egg mixture into the molds or baking dish and sprinkle with the lime zest. Place the molds or baking dish into a deep pan.

5. Fill the pan with enough water to come halfway up the side of the molds or baking dish.

6. Bake for 40 minutes or until set.

7. Run a knife around the inside of the molds or baking dish to free the flan and turn it out onto a serving dish. Serve warm or cold, and top with fresh berries, if desired.


*This recipe can become sugar-free if using monk fruit sweetener instead of agave syrup, which will raise your blood-sugar level

Recipe and photo reprinted with permission from Anti-Aging Dishes from Around the World by Grace O

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