10 Healthy Foods From The "Blue Zone" Sardinia 0 Comments
Ten years ago, a study carried out by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain determined 5 privileged areas of our planet where one can live happily, but primarily for a long time. They are called "The Blue Zones", and the province of Nuoro in Sardinia has been indicated as one of the 5 areas with the highest concentration of centenarians. The name originates from the fact that the researchers used to trace blue concentric circles on the map indicating the territories with the highest longevity, in fact calling them Blue Zones. All Blue Zones benefit a high percentage of happiness, a high presence of people over the age of 90 and a low presence of fatal diseases such as cancer. In these areas the same four constants occur:
- The diet where cheeses and legumes (and in minimum quantities of meat) provide protein intake
- Physical activity, which is always present in rural communities by walking a lot, (and the absence of smoking)
- An unshakable religious faith
- A lifestyle emphasizing family rank, where members take care of each other from childhood to old age, maintaining close social activity with neighbours. A life full of affections but also with relaxing moments dedicated to oneself, and above all, a life that never refuses a laugh, as a Chinese proverb says: "every smile makes you a day younger”.
Luca Deiana, director of the chair of Clinical Biochemistry of the Sassari University, who coordinates The Akea project (a kent'annos which in Sardinian means a hundred years) tells of having met in Ovodda village, in the province of Nuoro, living in two neighbouring houses, a man and a woman over one hundred years old. One was a shepherd for years and ate mostly bread and cheese. The other's mother had found herself without milk to feed her baby and, with peasant wisdom, she had her new-born breastfed directly from a goat’s udder. A diet that today would disconcert dieticians, but despite the super dose of animal origin proteins and fats, both have reached the century with gracefulness. "People who didn't go much to school, but at 102 years old know a lot about the laws of nature, far more than a graduate" he says, "They have great positivity, are optimistic, have common sense, spirituality, believe in life and do not reject others. They were in tune with the environment in which they lived. When they talk about themselves, they all say the same thing: up there they must have forgotten me".
A mission of American scholars and journalists has also been interested in Sardinia as one of the Blue Zones with the highest concentration of centenarians, also indicating diet as one of the secrets of their longevity.
What is the typical Sardinian Blue Zone diet?
- Goat's and sheep's milk (and deriving cheeses) (here you can read about The Sardinian Cheese) have a higher nutritional value and are more easily digested compared to cow's milk. Zinc and selenium, of which they are rich, help the immune system and promote healthy senility;
- Barley, ground into flour or added to soups, barley bread (orgiathu in Sardinian) was considered a poor man’s food, and to be recently re-evaluated. It was preferred by shepherds for its long shelf life, it has an even lower glycemic index than whole wheat bread;
- Carasau bread, dry and flat made with durum wheat, protein and gluten-free, does not cause a sugar spike in blood, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes;
- Homemade sourdough bread made using live lactobacilli (rather than yeast) to rise the dough, it helps to prevent obesity and diabetes (Discover The Bread Of Sardinia article here);
- Fennel is used as a vegetable (the bulb), as a herb (its willowy fronds), and as a spice (its seeds). Rich in fibre and soluble vitamins such as A, B, and C. It’s also a good diuretic; therefore, it helps to maintain the blood pressure low;
- Fava beans and chickpeas, delivering protein and fibre, are one of the foods highly associated with reaching age 100;
- Tomato, although originally from the Americas, it's been widely adopted in the Italian and Sardinian cuisine. Rich in vitamin C and potassium, it increases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and antioxidants;
- Almonds are the basis of 90% of Sardinian sweets, desserts and cookies. Its use increases good cholesterol and decreases systolic blood pressure;
- Milk thistle: Sardinians drink a tea of milk thistle, a native wild plant, that locals believe it can “cleanse the liver”;
- Last but not least, the garnet red Cannonau wine of Sardinia (read about it here: The Precious Wines Of Sardinia). It has been cited by Dr OZ as the elixir of long life. Rich in antioxidants, small daily doses of this wine, as they drink it in the Blue Zones, would help prevent heart attacks.
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” (François de La Rochefoucauld)
Written by Daniela Toti
In the photo: Zac Efron is interviewing a Centenarian from the village of Seulo in Sardinia for the Netflix TV Series "Down To Earth"