Thoughts on Green Bay, the Midwest’s Blue Zone

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

No one was more surprised than we were by the recent story on Green Bay, Wisconsin’s designation as a “blue zone.” These areas represent parts of the planet where residents are blessed with extraordinarily long lives due to some unknown combination of diet, tradition, and genetics.

We’ve long known, anecdotally, that Green Bay natives are a hardy folk with a love of good cheese and (sporadically) great football, but to hear that they’ve got more in common with folks in Okinawa and the Mediterranean than, say, Beloit or Duluth, was a mild shock. But then — and keep in mind, we’re food writers, not scientists — we got to thinking about the various factors that are believed to play into longevity.

Below are some theories, from a chiefly gastronomic point of view.

The Wine Connection

Beer, like wine, is slightly alcoholic but not aggressively so. Like wine, when consumed in moderation it contributes to an overall relaxed perspective that helps to lower blood pressure and promote heart healthiness. And, like wine, it’s a local product kissed by the terroir and the life-giving rays of the sun. And people in Green Bay drink beer. A lot of beer, truth be told. So they’ve got that going for them.

Green Bay on Foot

Whether walking from their cars to the mall, from the tavern back to their cars, from the post-tavern fender bender to another car, or from their seats in Lambeau Field to the concession stand, Green Bay natives love to walk, and it shows. Could this be the hidden key to long life that ties together northeastern Wisconsin with other blue zones?

The Cheese Factor

The French? Healthy. The Italians? Healthy. Spaniards? Healthy. Beyond their proximity to the Mediterranean and dislike of Germany, what do these people have in common? A love of cheese, to be sure. And in that regard, Green Bay is a long-lost sibling, which may help to explain the city’s newly obtained blue zone status.

No explanation for how Okinawa ties into this.

“Like Olive Oil on a Bun”

Science has been disputing the health-enhancing (or health-deteriorating) qualities of butter just about as long as people have thoughtfully analyzed the relationship between food and health. Could it be that, yes, butter acts like olive oil and helps maintain healthy arteries, thereby driving down the frequency of strokes and heart attacks? If so, Green Bay’s popular “butter burgers” are on the front lines of health.

Whatever the true causes turn out to be, one thing is clear: We could all learn a little something from this charming lakeside village’s gung-ho approach to good health.

One Comment

  1. Brian Tochterman

    Clever April Fools piece James. But if only this were true. Then every time I went home I wouldn’t see obituary sections filled with 50-year olds and younger. I’d also feel more confident about my own mortality.

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