Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. To your left, you’ll see the second-largest island in the Mediterranean – Sardinia, Italy. Sardinia’s not only where you’ll find magnificent coves and emerald waters … it’s also home to one of the world’s largest populations of men and women who live past 100 years of age.
Now, there are a few societies in the world in which the people seem to be extraordinarily healthy. Naturally, these places must be home to some secret. Perhaps there’s something in the water that keeps the people in these regions living long and feeling great. Or maybe it’s in the air?
Or … could the long lives of the inhabitants of these magic regions have nothing to do with the water, or the air? Instead, could it be all about the food. There’s a lot of evidence suggesting this could well be the case.
So, let’s tour four of these regions and zoom in on some of the foods that keep their people going strong for a long time.
Sardinia, Italy – Fennel
In Sardinia, kids aren’t the only ones eating gelato or riding bikes. The large population of centenarians – people over 100-years-old – could give the kids of the island a run for their money in any friendly bike race. How could these elders have so much energy?
This aromatic and flavorful herb has long been used for its medicinal power. In fact, several studies have proven fennel to effectively suppress several bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Turns out, fennel’s also known to have antioxidant properties, and it might even be able to enhance memory and diminish stress.1 And less stress might not only prolong life, but improve the quality of a life as well.
Ikaria, Greece – Olive Oil
Another island – only this time smaller and nestled in the Aegean Sea – is known for the long lives of its inhabitants. Ikaria is home to remote beaches, incredible wineries, and picturesque landscapes around every bend.
And though Ikara is full of history and character, it’s on this list because Ikarians live extraordinarily long (and healthy) lives. In fact, Ikarian men are about four times as likely as American men to make it past 90 years of age and – here’s the kicker – they often find themselves in better health than American men.2
On Ikaria, the people eat a diet almost completely free of processed sugar, white flour, and other processed food. And, one of the healthy foods they consume most regularly is olive oil.
Now, olive oil is amazing because of its high polyphenol content. It’s the polyphenols in olive oil that are responsible for its incredible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial activities.3
Not only that, olive oil’s chock full of vitamins, nutrients, and monounsaturated fats, which might help lower the risk of heart health issues.4
Okinawa, Japan – Seaweed
In the gorgeous blue waters of the East China Sea, there’s an archipelago made up of about 150 islands known for their tropical climate, wide beaches, and stunning coral reefs. This is Okinawa – and the home of many who live well past their 80s.
Turns out, it’s not just the food in Okinawa that keeps nearly 800 of its citizens healthy over the age of 100. There’s also a popular saying there, “Hara hachi bun me.” Translation? “Belly 80 percent full.” It’s sage advice, and likely responsible for the islanders’ longevity. But there’s a particular food that helps here too – seaweed.
In Okinawa, seaweed is a delicacy, and not just because it tastes so good. Seaweed’s a known source of beneficial food hydrocolloids like agar – the jelly-like component in seaweed full of calcium, potassium, and iron – and alginates – the good-for-you salt of the seaweed that may help block fat absorption.5
Loma Linda, California – Nuts
Loma Linda is an incredibly healthy city of about 23,000 people nestled in rugged and hilly San Bernardino, Southern California. The city’s known for being a mecca of health and wellness.
Furthermore, it’s known for the size of its Seventh-day Adventist community. As a practice, Seventh-day Adventists shun smoking, refrain from watching television, and avoid several other activities that the community considers harmful to their health.
Now, the city’s known for how long its residents live, their low occurrences of cardiovascular issues, and their low rates of obesity. And, it turns out, most of the diets in Loma Linda are plant-based. So, while folks in Loma Linda eat plenty of vegetables and drink lots of water, one of the staples of their diets is nuts.
Turns out, nuts like pistachios are incredibly high in protein, but they’re also full of essential vitamins like potassium and vitamin K. Pistachios are also a wonderful source of beneficial phytochemicals and have been proven to encourage heart-healthy blood lipid profiles. This little green nut might also help with weight control.6
Another nut known for its health benefits is the almond. Almonds are particularly high in quality vegetable protein, fiber, and certain minerals like magnesium and copper.7
So, the next time you feel like a snack, reach for a handful of almonds of pistachios, and know you could be adding days to your life by choosing nuts over a processed snack.
Eating like a Centenarian
And, though you may not be able to hop on a flight to any of these wonderful places around the world, you can enjoy the benefits of these amazing, healthy, and delicious foods well into your golden years.