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Want to know the key to becoming a centenarian? Talk to Dan Buettner, an explorer and fellow for National Geographic, who spent ten years researching the places with the longest living people--or Blue Zones, as he calls them in his recently published book, The Blue Zones Solution.

The bottom line: Folks who live to be hundred tend to be united by a sense of purpose, familial ties, active lifestyle, pseudo-vegetarian diet and strong spirituality.

Here, the five Blue Zones--and their inhabitants’ secrets to the fountain of youth.

Okinawa, Japan

This Pacific archipelago boasts a diet surprisingly high in carbohydrates; people eat primarily sweet potatoes, seafood, tofu, turmeric and goya (bitter melon). They also consume a lot of jasmine tea. This plant-based diet is high in carotenoids, lycopene and antioxidants, which lower blood sugar and ward off cancer and heart disease. 


Sardinia, Italy

It's easy to be physically fit when you’re a shepherd (the profession of many Sardinians). But in addition to staying active and “making love every Sunday,” these guys also have uniquely healthy eating habits: They consume locally produced wine (one to two glasses each day), goat’s- and sheep’s-milk cheese, wild greens and olive oil. They also eat homemade, kneaded sourdough bread and plenty of fava beans and chickpeas.

Loma Linda, California

This California community of Seventh-day Adventists boasts the longest-living female population. Their secret--as you might expect--is remarkable prudence: no smoking, drinking or TV, and a diet consisting primarily of grains, avocados, nuts and salmon.

Ikaría, Greece

On this remote Greek Island, people simply “forget to die,” and follow the now much-heralded Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes locally grown vegetables, olive oil, feta cheese, honey, legumes and greens. The best news? Here, a glass of wine is considered healthier than water.

The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica

Just south of the Nicaraguan border, the Nicoya Peninsula is home to farmers, laborers and cowboys who eat large breakfasts, moderate lunches and small dinners consisting of squash, rice, black beans and homemade corn tortillas. The most carnivorous of all Blue Zoners, Nicoyans eat plenty of pork and eggs. Plus: mangoes as far as the eye can see.

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