While there is quite a bit of debate around touting alcohol as something that is beneficial to our health, the fact of the matter is that people living in Blue Zones, which are places with the highest concentration of centenarians, do consume alcohol regularly—they just consume it in a mindful and intentional way.
As longevity expert Dan Buettner told Well+Good, “These people who are living the longest of anybody on Earth are enjoying a little bit of their favorite alcoholic beverage every day.” According to Buettner, “in all five Blue Zones, they drink a little bit every day, and it adds to their quality of life. If you drink a little bit of red wine with a plant-based meal, it will about quadruple the flavonoid or antioxidant absorption and lower cortisol levels at the end of the day.”
It’s important to note that Blue Zone residents aren’t downing sugary cocktails all day. For instance, In Sardinia, Italy, a red wine called cannonau is a common accompaniment to dinner. It has double to triple the number of flavonoids (a kind of antioxidant), compared with other wines. The manner in which they consume the wine is also worth observing. They drink only one or two glasses to go with a Mediterranean-inspired meal and enjoy them with loved ones.
In Okinawa, Japan, where there are lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and dementia than in the general population, their beverage of choice is awamori, a rice-based distilled liquor. Awamori, which is often mixed with water before consumption, has been a part of their culture for over six centuries. Like their Sardinian counterparts, residents of Okinawa consume alcohol in moderation, in a social setting, and paired with a diet that is mostly plant-based.
An essential factor of Blue Zone alcohol consumption is its social aspect. Many of us have been deprived of social connectedness due to the health crisis but being social is crucial to our health as well. So, as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, be sure to max out on the benefits of reconnecting with friends and family and supporting your health by raising a glass (or two) with your favorite people.