There are five corners of the world that are known to hold the secrets to longevity. These regions, known as the world’s Blue Zones, are home to the highest concentrations of centenarians and have been able to avoid many of the deadly diseases that plague much of the United States. Because of their long life spans and low incidents of heart disease, dementia, and cancer, the Blue Zones have become a hot topic of research for many.
One of the most famous Blue Zone researchers is Dan Buettner, the man who founded the Blue Zone Project. Buettner has researched the Blue Zone communities to learn about the habits and practices that keep them living such long lives, and has made it his goal to make these practices accessible to communities that lack in longevity, such as many parts of the U.S.
But while much of the United States struggles to maintain healthy practices, Buettner has been searching for American communities that have already adopted their own longevity-driven ways of living so that he can learn from them and share their habits with the rest of the country.
In 2021, The Today Show and Dan Buettner visited South Carolina to talk with a farmer, Rollen Chalmers, who grew up eating and growing Carolina Gold Rice. And while this rice may hold certain secrets to longevity, it also holds a dark past.
“I lived in this area all my life, hanging out in these swamps, these fields, and marshes,” says Chalmers. “My ancestors, it was all harvested by hand. It will get you a little emotional if you get to thinking about, you know, what was going on in these fields.”
Chalmers tells Today that this rice is the product of the Gullah Geechee people. “Gullah Geechee people are just ascendents from the slaves….and they didn’t have anything but what they knew about growing rice, and they really understood how to grow in these fields.”
Buettner shares with The Today Show that this specific type of rice is found only in a small area of the Southern United States. “Carolina gold rice is an African strain of rice that pretty much disappeared until about 20 years ago…It’s a uniquely American crop because that strain has gone away. You can’t go back to Africa to get that strain…that, you gotta go to the Carolinas.”
Even though this unique rice is one of the healthiest crops grown here in the U.S., people are still weary of eating rice for health concerns. But Buettner tells Today that the type of rice you choose is really what matters.
“If you’re eating a bowl of white rice it’s probably not the best idea. Carolina Gold Rice, it’s different, it’s a different species from the Asian rice. It’s got a little gold hue to it, it’s got a nuttier flavor. And it usually has some germ left in it, and that’s where a lot of the nutrients are.”
And people like Chalmers truly believe in the health and longevity benefits of eating Carolina Gold Rice. “I love to share this stuff, and to share the knowledge. You still can live good and live healthy.”
For more on health and living a longer life, check out 9 Foods the Longest-Living People Eat Every Day.