The Inquisitive Olive

TIO: Dan Buettner

TIO: Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner

Kosterina Family,

The inspiration for Kosterina dates back to 2012, when I read an article in the New York Times called The Island Where People Forget to Die. I read about a Greek man living in Long Island, NY (where I grew up) who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 9 months to live. Instead of pursuing treatment, he decided to go back to his native home on the island of Ikaria, Greece to live out his remaining days. He ended up living 35+ more years.

Dan Buettner is the man who discovered that Ikaria is one of five Blue Zones – areas of the world that have a higher-than-average population of centenarians (people who live to be over 100). The article piqued my interest in how the people of the Blue Zones live. It also got me thinking about my summer and winter vacations spent in southern Greece and what I loved about the Mediterranean lifestyle. I admired the way these people enjoyed tasty food, sipped good wine, and lingered over long meals outdoors. Meals consist of plenty of vegetables, healthy meats, fresh fish, and an abundance of olive oil. Movement is inherent in their daily lives without the need to spend hours in a gym. Most importantly, their relationships are of upmost importance to them.

Dan’s work is a major source of inspiration for the Kosterina team and me. Our mission is to help build a Blue Zone in every US household. I could not be more thrilled and grateful to share our Inquisitive Olive interview with Dan Buettner, where he shares his wellness expertise garnered from time spent with Blue Zone centenarians.

Dan Buettner is an explorer, National Geographic Fellow, award-winning journalist and producer, and New York Times bestselling author. He discovered the five places in the world – dubbed blue zones hotspots – where people live the longest, healthiest lives.


Favorite food? Beans!

Favorite self-care treatment? Natural movement ( a walk or a bike ride).

Favorite grocery store purchase? The ingredients for Ikarian Stew, I then make a huge batch on Sundays and freeze it to eat for breakfast or lunch throughout the week.

Favorite skin care or beauty product? Don’t have one.

Favorite place to travel? Any of the blue zones (particularly Ikaria and Costa Rica). I also go to the British Virgin Islands every chance I get.

Favorite part of your day? Happy hours with my friends.


How did you come to the world of wellness? Do you have credentials in the world of wellness?

It all started in the spring of 2000 when I was leading a series of educational projects called “Quests” in which a team of scientist investigated some of Earth’s great puzzles. I had heard about Okinawa’s unusual longevity a few years earlier and thought it would be a great quest to investigate their secrets to good health and long life. We spent ten days studying, exploring, and summing up what we found. That was what sparked the excitement and five years later, I returned to Okinawa with a new team. I’d just written a cover story for National Geographic about the “Secrets of Long Life,” which profiled three areas of the world with concentrations of some of the world’s longest-lived people-areas we dubbed blue zones areas. I was determined to delve deeper into the lifestyle of Okinawa. During these explorations we were always thinking, how can we bring these teachings back to our communities? This is how the Blue Zones Project was born. I’ve spent the last 20 years discovering these areas and finding out their secrets.

What’s your passion? What makes you feel most alive? 

Journalism is my passion. I love traveling to different regions of the world and learning about their cultures, lifestyle and health.

Where do you live, and what do you love about your home/hometown?

I currently live in Miami Beach. I love the walking and biking access to everything. I’m originally from Minnesota which is still a special place to me. In Minnesota I love the bikeability and the access to nature.

Drop us with some knowledge. What’s the one fact, insight, or story about your area of expertise you’d like to share?

When people think about becoming happier or healthier they often only focus on diet or exercise, but finding your sense of purpose is so powerful. Knowing yours can add a good 7 years to your life expectancy.

Is there a wellness myth you can bust for us?

There is not a pill, supplement, or quick fix to stop or reverse aging. It’s all about small changes throughout your environment that curates a healthy surrounding. This fosters a place where wellness ensues rather than something you need to pursue.


What values did the people you consider family instill in you?

My family instilled the importance of family and loved ones. I’m still very close to my parents and three brothers. My dad also instilled the love of the outdoors. He would take all of us up north to the Boundary Waters for a week in the summer where we would camp and explore.

What’s your cultural or ethnic heritage, and how does your background inform your approach to wellness?

I am Italian.

Who do you call family?

My parents, 3 brother, my 3 adult children, and a close group of friends.

How do you stay connected with loved ones?

I travel a lot so Facetime and phone calls are my main ways, but whenever I am in town I always make a point of visiting my family and hosting dinners for everyone. Holidays are very important to my family so I do my best to make it home for every one.


What sparked your wellness journey?

I kind of stumbled into it while doing educational research trips around the world. Once I realized that the longest living places in the world shared many common lifestyle habits, I embraced them and incorporated them into my own life.

What part of your morning ritual helps you start the day on the right foot?

I like to start my morning with 30 minutes of yoga followed by a cup of coffee and a late breakfast of Steel Cut Oats or an Ikarian stew.

What’s your favorite place to unwind?

The blue zone of Ikaria, Greece holds a very special place in my heart and I have many friends who live on the island. Life is slower there and I can really unwind surrounded by good food, weather and friends.


Take us with you on a grocery shopping trip. What’s always in your cart (real or virtual)?

Beans, nuts, and greens are always in my shopping cart. I love going to local bakeries for true slow rise sourdough.

How do you stay healthy?

I try to incorporate all of the blue zones principles into my daily life. I consume foods that are plant based, I stay active, and I curate a close social network of people who have the same value in staying healthy as I do.

Do you like hosting dinner parties? If so, do you have a dish that’s your claim to fame?

I love making a vegetarian Paella or an Ikarian Stew. If you’re coming to one of my dinners you’re most likely having one or the other.

Have you been to Greece? If so did you find a product, dish or drink you loved? Tell us about it!

Yes, many times! I love the honey from Ikaria, the wine, and the Mediterranean diet in general.

What are your favorite fitness resources/favorite workouts?

This applies to the next question too. I incorporate my fitness into everything I do. I ride my bike to work meetings and dinner reservations. During phone call meetings I walk around a park. If I’m having a face-to-face meeting I like to do it while walking. I’m also a cyclist and have 3 Guinness World Records for distance bicycling. My new passions are pickleball and stand-up paddle boarding.

How do you stay the course when you’re not feeling motivated?

I’ve done my best to create these healthy nudges into my daily schedule so it’s not something I feel I need motivation to do. I just do them as they’re part of my day.