Dietary Tips From the World’s Oldest and Healthiest People
Where does the largest number of centenarians live and what are their dietary habits?
In 2004, a team from National Geographic that included the top researchers into longevity traveled the world to identify the places where people live the longest and the best. Those points, called “Blue Zones,” were determined by having inhabitants that reached the age of 100 with much more frequency than in the US, and the team set about investigating why.
According to the research, these are the ‘bluest’ zones in the world: Icaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra province, Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica. The team also included anthropologists, demographers, epidemiologists and other researchers to study how the centenaries in those zones lived so well and to detect the habits they have in common.
If we want to reach the age of 100 and be strong and healthy, and perhaps even happy, we will have to try what has survived the years and the modern day food trends. Because if one thing is implicitly proven in terms of longevity, it is the lifestyle and routines of these people.
After analyzing the information they collected, the researchers determined which eating habits were shared by the people inhabiting those five zones:
To avoid weight gain, stop eating when the stomach is 80% full.
Eat the smallest portion of the day in the afternoon or evening.
Eat plants, above all beans, and eat meat rarely, in portions of three of four ounces only.
Drink alcohol in moderation and regularly: 1 or 2 glasses a day.
By zone, these are the best foods for longevity. You can also find some delicious recipes at the Blue Zones site.
Also known as ‘the island where people forget to die,’ Icaria is home to the healthiest elderly people in this part of the Aegean. Their diet consists mainly of potatoes, goat’s milk, vegetables, some fruit and relatively small portions of fish. They also eat a lot of feta cheese, lemons and infusions of herbs such as salvia and marjoram. They occasionally eat lamb.
Okinawa has among the world’s largest numbers of centenarians: around 6.5 people out of 10,000 reach the age of 100 (compared with 1.73 in 10,000 in most parts of the world). Its inhabitants have fed on the tradition of eating something from the earth and something from the sea every day. Among their ‘longevity foods’ are bitter melons, tofu, wholegrain rice, garlic, green tea and shitake mushrooms.
On this beautiful Mediterranean island, the longevity rate is very high among both men and women (the rate is normally much higher among women). The inhabitants attribute their longevity to factors such as the clean air, the region’s wine and because they “make love every Sunday.” But the researchers found that as shepherds and the fact that they walk so much in the hills also influences their reaching the ripe old age of 100.
Their main foods are goat’s milk and sheep’s cheese and sourdough and barley bread. And to balance those carbohydrates they eat a lot of fennel, beans, peas, tomatoes, almonds and wine made from Grenache grapes.
Loma Linda, California
This region of the US has the characteristic of almost all its inhabitants belonging to the Seventh Day Adventists, who prohibit smoking, drinking alcohol and dancing and recommend no television, cinema or any distractions from the media. They also follow a ‘Biblical’ diet focused on grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables and only drink water.
Sugar is taboo and they avoid meat. Some of them eat fish, but very infrequently and only in small quantities. Their favorite foods are avocado, nuts, oats, wheat bread and soymilk.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
The traditional food in this region is rice and beans with a little cheese and coriander, in a corn tortilla, with an egg on top. But they also eat a lot of papaya, banana and chontaduro (the fruit of the chonta palm tree).
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