The Sardinian Diet May Be the Secret to Longevity
Sardinia is the second largest island off Italy’s coast. Besides being beautiful, there is a medical mystery about Sardinians that have scientists scratching their heads. Sardinia claims its place as one of the top “blue zones” for longevity, where people live to be well over 100.
At least 220 of Sardinia’s current 1.6 million people have reached 100, twice the average of the rest of the world, and 20 times as many as in the United States. Interestingly, men and women share longevity equally, whereas elsewhere, women reach 100 4 times more often than men.
Sardinia, particularly the central-eastern part of the island, is one of five blue zones that have been discovered by National Geographic Magazine writer Dan Buettner. The other zones of longevity include:
- The islands of Okinawa, Japan – home of some of the longest lived people on earth
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- Ikaria, Greece – the most recently discovered blue spot has the highest percentage of 90-year-olds on earth. Nearly 1 out of 3 people live into their 90s. they also have 20% lower rate of cancer, 50% lower rate of heart disease, and almost no dementia, according to Buettner.
- Loma Linda, California – the only location known in the United States, this area is home to a group of Seventh-day Adventists who live to be centenarians.
Scientists believe Sardinian men share a genetic trait passed from father to son that makes them less likely than the general population to die from heart disease or stroke. But while researchers look for genetic clues, the people of Sardinia attribute this phenomenon to their unpolluted air, lack of stress, and a healthy diet, including wine with very high levels of antioxidants.
The Sardinian diet is a balance of healthy nutrients, fresh locally grown foods prepared simply with olive oil, lemon and garlic to compliment dishes. Meals are served in small courses usually with a pasta or soup first, a main dish with a focus on plant-based foods such as vegetables, legumes, and nuts, and ending with a salad to aid in digestion.
Meat intake is low in Sardinia, typically only once or twice a week. When meat is eaten, it is generally regional and consists of lamb, lean pork, oily fish, and shellfish. The most common method for cooking meat is over a woodfire or spit. One dish meals containing a little meat and a lot of seasonal, locally grown vegetables are also popular in this area.
Farms in Sardinia grow many different fruit and vegetable crops, including tomatoes, oranges, figs, apples, apricots and grapes. Artichokes (carciofi) are a regional favorite and eaten in the winter season.
Desserts are primarily a little cheese and fresh fruit. The cheese, called Pecorino, is made from the milk of grass-fed sheep and is high in omega-3 fatty acids. There is another type of cheese, called Cazu marzu or rotten cheese, which contains live maggots that ferment the cheese. Sardinians eat this because they feel the bacteria are good for the gut, however it is considered illegal, and can only be purchased on the Black Market.
Because of the dangers associated with this cheese, it is considered an illegal and is only available on the Black Market....Definitely not for the faint-hearted
The wine of Sardinia is a very dark, red wines called vino nero, which means “black wine”. Wine is consumed with the meal. Some wines local to the Sardinian island include Occhio di Pernice, Cannonau, Vermentino, Malvasia di Bosa, Moscato, Mirto, Fil’e ferru, and Abbardente.
As the Sardinians say "A Kent' Annos", which means may you live to be 100.
Sources Include: ABC News, In Italy, Go-Sardinia.com, and the journal Experimental Gerontology.