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10+ Secrets to Longevity in Sardinia.

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Discover the 10+ longevity secrets of the Sardinians, the people living in the jewel of the Mediterranean, Sardinia, known as one of the five blue zones. 

Known for its rugged coastline and miles of beautiful sandy beaches, Sardinia is an Italian island where people regularly live longer, often over 100 years old.

Sardinia is found in the mountainous areas of the Ogliastra province, where people usually work on farms. Because of the mountains, these folks have kept to their traditional way of life, living off the land and eating food grown nearby. For these vibrant Sardinian older citizens, what they eat is important for longevity. 

But you don’t need to live in Italy for these culinary health benefits. Join me and discover the secrets of Sardinian longevity, focusing on eating habits and lifestyles that one can implement at home.

10+ Secrets to Longevity in the Italian Island of Sardinia, the Blue Zone

What are the blue zones?

Blue Zones are areas where residents enjoy notably longer and healthier lives compared to the worldwide average. These regions experience lower rates of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. An unusually high number of centenarians, people who live past 100, is typical.

Sardinia was the first of five places known as “blue zones” identified by researchers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain. They, along with Dan Buettner, who later joined them, were fascinated by the world where people live much longer than average and wanted to understand what made them unique. 

Sardinia is even more unique than the other blue zones because almost the same number of men and women live to be 100 years old. In most populations, women outlive men by approximately 5 to 1. 

Although all of Sardinia is considered a Blue Zone, the specific regions where the ultra-centenarians live include Ogliastra, Barbagia di Ollolai, and Barbagia of Seulo.

Other blue zones include Okinawa in Japan, Ikaria in Greece, Nicoya – in the Costa Rica Peninsula, and Loma Linda in California, United States. 

Sardinia

Why do people in Sardinia live to 100?

According to Dan Buettner, the Sardinia diet consists of beans, greens, and whole grains, and he calls it “peasant foods” (2)

In addition, Due to the isolation of Sardinia Island, it was sometimes challenging to find enough food. So the people of Sardinia invented “famine foods” such as acorn bread mixed with clay, cheese ripened in goats’ stomachs, or snails (1)

Although people from other places may think these foods are strange, they are important to Sardinian culture and are enjoyed as local delicacies. Research has found that these unique Sardinian foods play a big role in why there is the highest concentration of centenarians. Traditional and famine foods in Sardinia include abbamele, acorn bread, pane carasau, caggiu de crabittu (Callu de Cabreddu), casu marzu (translates to “rotten cheese” in the Sardinian language), snails or bottarga.

In addition, other habits such as preparing food and eating together, going for walks every day, laughing with friends, and having a glass of local wine also help centenarians in Sardinia live longer.

10+ Secrets of longest-living Sardinians

Traditional Sardinian diet, mostly a plant-based diet

The traditional diet in Sardinia includes whole-grain bread, beans, fresh vegetables and food from their garden, fruits, and mastic oil in certain areas of the island. Meat is mostly reserved for Sundays and special occasions.

The main foods grown in their gardens are tomatoes, potatoes, and kohlrabi. Depending on the season, Sardinians also grow basic radishes, fennel, and celery.

They also like to forage food like wild asparagus, mushrooms, and chard.

taste blue zone speciality

Sourdough Bread

Pane carasau is a classic Sardinian flatbread made with durum wheat flour, yeast, water, and salt. It’s baked twice to remove most of the water, making it last for many months without losing its taste or texture. 

Also called Carta di musica (music paper), Pane carasau is thin, crispy, and mold-resistant. Thus, it can be stored for many months without losing its taste or texture. This long shelf life was important for shepherds who lived nomadically and didn’t always have fresh food available. Research has shown that the sourdough used to make pane carasau produces special substances that can help lower blood pressure. (3)Additionally, pane carasau has a low glycemic index, which reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes. Not only did pane carasau provide sustenance during tough times in Sardinia’s history, but its healthy ingredients also helped people live longer.

Fava beans

Fava beans and chickpeas, rich in fiber and protein, are commonly used in the Sardinian diet, often substituting for animal proteins. They are believed to contribute to longevity, particularly in dishes like fava bean soup or chickpea stew.

“fazolata” is a traditional Sardinian dish made with fava beans, often cooked with other ingredients such as vegetables, herbs, and sometimes pork. It’s a hearty and nutritious dish that is popular in Sardinia.

Barley

As the primary grain in the Sardinian diet, barley is strongly linked to longevity, particularly among Sardinian men. Barley has a much lower glycemic index compared to wheat, meaning it causes a slower and steadier rise in blood sugar levels after consumption. This stable blood sugar response benefits overall health and may contribute to a longer lifespan. 

Olive Oil

While Sardinia is less renowned for olive oil production than Ikaria, it still has a long history of cultivating olives and producing olive oil. Sardinian olive oil has a unique flavor profile and is associated with a lower risk of age-related diseases. 

sheeps

Goat and sheep milk products

Sheep and goats significantly shape the island’s delightful cuisine and add to its allure. Sardinia’s shepherd culture brings a wealth of amazing cheeses. The most renowned Pecorino Sardo is savored on its own or used in various recipes like these traditional culurgiones.

Community and Social Engagement

In small Sardinian villages, everyone knows each other, and working together is a must. Even older people are involved in village activities, from gardening to organizing events. Church attendance and celebrating festivals are important for the community, as they follow religious teachings. Everyone is included and respected, greatly influencing how people live in these villages.

Celebrate elders.

Sardinia can teach us how to live in harmony with extended family.

Older people are respected for their wisdom and are expected to help with household chores if they can. Families usually don’t send elderly parents to retirement homes because it’s seen as embarrassing. Instead, they often live with their grown children, and sometimes multiple generations live together. Even if they move out, they’re still looked after by their family. Families stay close-knit and try to stay together.

People who live in strong, healthy families suffer lower rates of depression, suicide, and stress.

castelsardo

Take a walk. done

Because of the steep, mountainous nature of the landscape, the Sardinian way of life is exercising daily. People also don’t drive and prefer walking instead. Walking five miles a day is a standard daily walk by Sardinian shepherds. It helps with their cardiovascular system, muscles, and bone metabolism.

Drink a glass of Cannonau Wine daily.

In the mountainous regions of Sardinia, red wine is produced with higher levels of polyphenols than most other wines. Polyphenols act as antioxidants, which can help protect against diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Their traditional cannonau wine is crafted from the grenache grape. It is typically served in a glass slightly larger than a shot glass. Culturally, there’s a tradition of buying a glass for a friend, who then reciprocates, and the cycle continues.

Moderate wine consumption may help explain the lower levels of stress among men.

Laugh with friends.

Men in this Blue Zone area are renowned for their witty sense of humor. They meet up in the streets every afternoon to share laughs. Laughter helps decrease stress, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Why do people in Sardinia live to 100?
Vladka on May 27th, 2024

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