Several factors appear to affect life expectancy. Research has shown that genes predict by 25% about a person’s lifespan, with diet, environment, exercise and other factors in our daily lives predicting the rest.

According to the teachers of the School of Medicine of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Lina Paschou (Assistant Professor of Endocrinology), Melpomeni Peppa (Professor of Endocrinology), Evanthia Kassi (Professor of Biochemistry-Endocrinology), Anastasia Thanopoulou (Assistant Professor of Pathology), Erifuli Chatziagelaki (Professor of Pathology-Metabolic Diseases) and Theodora Psaltopoulou (Professor of Therapeutics-Epidemiology-Preventive Medicine) you cannot change your genes, but improving your diet will make you healthier and could make a difference in life expectancy. And studies show that even if you start after middle age or make improvements later, you can still add a decade or more to your life expectancy.

5 places in the world have been identified where people have exceptionally long life expectancies, often living to 100 or even more. These areas, called “Blue Zones,” include the Nicoyan Peninsula in Costa Rica, the city of Loma Linda in California, and the islands of Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, and Ikaria in Greece. At first glance, the diets, lifestyles and habits of people in these ‘Blue Zones’ may seem quite different from each other.

Many of the people of Sardinia live in mountainous terrain, where they hunt, fish and gather their own food, such as goat’s milk, barley and garden vegetables.

Its long-lived residents Loma Linda is part of a tight-knit community that avoids caffeine and alcohol and follows a largely vegetarian diet, while in Ikaria people follow typical Mediterranean diet with lots of fruit and vegetables and moderate amounts of meat and seafood. Okinawans have historically consumed a plant-based diet. They get many of their calories from sweet potatoes and fresh vegetables, which they often harvest from their gardens. Meanwhile, the centenarian Nicoyans tend to eat a traditional Mesoamerican diet rich in starchy plant foods such as corn and beans.

But while their eating habits are different in many ways, they share at least four common parameters. You can incorporate these common centenarian nutritional principles into your life by doing the following:

  1. Eat legumes often. Legumes are especially popular with people living in the ‘Blue Zones’. Soy is an important part of the traditional diet in Okinawa, as are fava beans in Sardinia and black beans in Nicoyan.
  2. Eat a handful of nuts daily. Nuts are rich in vitamins, fiber and minerals and are a dietary staple for many residents of the Blue Zones. Walnuts and almonds, for example, are popular in Ikaria and Sardinia, while in Nicoyan they love peanuts.
  3. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. People in most “Blue Zones” tend to eat most of their calories early in the day rather than later. Okinawans traditionally eat a big breakfast, a modest lunch, and don’t even have dinner.
  4. . Eat meals together with your family. In the Blue Zones it is common for families to eat at least one daily meal together, usually lunch or the last meal of the day. Although it’s difficult for families with busy lives to take meals together often, it’s worth trying to do it as often as you can. Families that eat together tend to eat more nutritious meals while eating more slowly. They eat more fruits and vegetables and their children are less likely to develop obesity.

Diet of course by itself dit is not the only factor which is related to a high life expectancy, the professors conclude. Research has shown that people who live in communities where longevity is common typically have strong ties to friends and family, a sense of purpose outside of themselves, and a positive outlook on life. They engage in high levels of physical activity and spend a lot of time outside the home, gardening, farming or socializing with other people in their communities.