Sardinia is an idyllic island off Italy’s mainland west coast and is most famous for its glorious beaches, luxury resorts and stunning coastal landscapes. However, it is also famous for a quite different reason as Sardinia is one of the world’s Blue Zones – areas of the world where people tend to live the longest.
There are seven Blue Zones across the globe, but the five most famous are Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece) and the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California (US). So is there anything that links these diverse cultures that could explain their unusual longevity? You guessed it: their healthy diets and lifestyle, as, in all these cultures, plant-based diets prevail and the inhabitants tend to have an active lifestyle with plenty of time spent with family and friends.
The traditional diet of Sardinia is particularly appealing as it is focused on wholegrain breads, fava beans, garden vegetables and seasonal fruits, but also includes pecorino cheese made from grass-fed sheep’s milk, and meat and fish, which is usually reserved for Sundays or special occasions. There is no need for exotic superfoods or expensive supplements to reap the benefits of this traditional Mediterranean diet, making it easy for the average person to incorporate into their daily life. In addition, you don’t need to give up your treats as the Sardinians enjoy a moderate amount of red wine, which is rich in flavonoids – anti-oxidants that are thought to play a role in the prevention of heart disease and age-related illnesses.
Secrets to a Long Life from Sardinia
As a part of research into the Blue Zones, experts have come up with a “Blue Zones Diet“, which may help keep heart disease and age-related illnesses at bay. Here are some of the researchers top tips for a long and happy life:
- Follow the 95:5 rule: Over 150 dietary surveys of the world’s longest-lived people have shown that their diet is focused on plant foods, with 95% of their daily meals made up of wholegrains, vegetables, beans and fruits, with olive oil, herbs and spices used to add flavor.
- Swap meat for fish: In most Blue Zones, meat is reserved for special meals and celebrations, and processed meats, such as hot dogs, are not eaten at all. Instead, the longest-lived cultures enjoy fresh fish up to three times per week, including wild-caught salmon, sardines and anchovies.
- Limit dairy: Most of the Blue Zones avoid cow’s milk, and instead eat small amounts of sheep (pecorino) or goat’s cheese (a portion of cheese is a cube about the same size as an ice cube).
- Beans, beans – good for your heart: Be it fava beans, green beans or soy beans, many of the Blue Zones cultures enjoy beans and legumes daily – try to eat a cup a day, spread out between breakfast, lunch and dinner, but avoid canned beans that include added salt and/or sugar.
- Go the whole way: For longevity, there’s no need to limit carbs – just opt for wholegrain breads, pastas and corn tortillas, and avoid white bread and processed flour products to reap the benefits of the whole grain.
- Choose natural sweeteners: Refined sugar has been linked to increasing rates of obesity, tooth decay and type 2 diabetes. Instead of table sugar, opt for a natural sweetener, such as honey, and use fruits, such as bananas, dates or apple sauce, in baking.
- Go nuts for nuts: Snacking on plain nuts has been linked to lower rates of obesity and they are also rich in essential fatty acids that have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body (opt for plain unroasted and unsalted nuts).
- Water and wine: We all know the benefits of drinking more water – try to make it your beverage of choice, as well as unsweetened teas and coffee. In many of the Blue Zones, they also enjoy a glass of wine or two with dinner – in Sardinia, they prefer Cannonau wine, which is two or three times richer in anti-oxidant flavonoids than other wines.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the world’s Blue Zones, we recommend visiting https://bluezones.com/, which has lots of useful information about diet and lifestyle for longevity. Alternatively, if you want to explore Sardinia and learn more about the traditional Sardinian diet and culture first-hand, why not take a peek at our tailor-made vacations to Italy? We customize our Italy tours, which means that you can choose when to travel, how long to stay and what optional extras you want included in your package, such as a cooking class with a Sardinian nonna. To find out more, click here to visit the dedicated section of our website or call a friendly member of our travel team on 347-594-5500. You can also click here to send us an online enquiry.