by Jennifer Leslie
The research into so called “Blue Zones” in different areas of the world fascinates me! Lifestyle, food choices , activity levels and stress management render specific areas in the world as blue zones (originally circled with a blue pen). These areas have a high concentration of 100 year olds who have grown old without problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes.
In this blog I am going to share with you the lifestyle habits of the Sardinians who live in the highlands boasting the largest concentration of centenarian males in the world. In one small village of 2500 people there are 5 centenarians!
The Sardinians healthy old age can be attributed to long days spent herding sheep on very steep hillsides. This pastoralism has a high correlation with living a long life. The shepherds are always moving up and down the hills in a low to moderate activity level. The people never actually “retire”, they simply shift into other roles in the community but still maintain an active and respected part of the community.
Their diets are very interesting, the only dairy they consume is milk and cheese from sheep and goats. These cheeses are higher in Omega 3’s than cow’s milk because the sheep are grass fed. Meat is only consumed in small amounts and usually for special events. Their main protein source is from fava beans and chickpeas. They consume only sourdough bread and use low glycemic barley flour. They also eat sourdough whole wheat flat bread, that is very high in fiber and complex carbohydrates.
Vegetables are a staple and featured at most meals. Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C and potassium and popular fennel is loaded with fiber and soluble vitamins. Olive oil is the fat of choice and the drink of choice of course is red wine. The centenarians love their 3 to 4 glasses of Grenache grape wine when gathering for happy hour to discuss the day’s events.
This diet deviates from the traditional Mediterranean diet where oily fish are often an important protein source. The Sardinians in the Blue Zone live too far from the ocean to enjoy fish! Instead they have benefited from a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, vegetables, sheep and goat dairy products.
This combined with long days of being active accounts for their amazing cardio-vascular health and longevity.