Photo credit: MarenWischnewski
“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.” Hippocrates
In Italy, there are more the 16.000 centenarians and 3.6 million people who are more than 80 years old. Various studies* have shown that following the Mediterranean diet is one of the main factors that can guarantee longevity. In recent years, it was shown that the Mediterranean diet has a beneficial influence on many diseases like cardiovascular diseases, obesity, age-related chronic diseases and many others. Many Mediterranean countries have their own diets, but they are all just variations of one entity which is the Mediterranean diet. Because it is not single nutrients that should be considered when thinking about the effect of the diet on longevity, but the whole Mediterranean eating pattern. Some studies have shown that this diet is responsible for the longevity of two Mediterranean populations from Sicani Mounts (Italy) and from Ikaria Island (Greece).
Many of you may think that the high lipid intake can be a bad thing, but for example in Italy and Greece is around 40% of total energy intake which is higher than in other European or North American countries, but still there are much evidence* that this type of diet has beneficial effect on their health, especially coronary health.
In the Western part of Sicily, the biggest Mediterranean island, there is a high frequency of centenarians, so Italian researchers studied their eating habits and lifestyle trying to discover what was the key of successful aging. The conclusion was that for successful aging other than living in small towns without pollution, different working environment, Mediterranean diet was closely related to longevity. Although today nutritionist recommend eating five small meals a day is the key to a good diet, these centenarians eat three times a day, no snacks and drink only water or wine.*
Many of us cannot change our working place or move out to a small town somewhere in the country away from the pollution, but we can all change our eating habits.
Mediterranean diet is based on an intake of healthy ingredients like seasonal fruit and vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, seafood, legumes, cereal and moderate amounts of wine. But that is not the only secret of Italian and Greek centenarians. They are all physically active, not obese and positive people.
Following Mediterranean diet is easy and fun, you can make some delicious healthy meals having fun in the kitchen if you like cooking, but there is also an enormous amount of healthy recipes that can be made in just 15 minutes for all those who lack time but want to stay healthy.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” Brillat-Savarin
Following these few steps you can make some huge steps towards longevity:
- Eat less red meat and more seafood and light meat. Choosing fresh meat and seafood can be a problem nowadays, but take a look at this article for some tips.
- Replace your high-glycemic snacks with low-glycemic foods that are rich in fiber and protein.
- Use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil which is loaded with healthy fat and antioxidants. Use other types of oils (sunflower, vegetable oil, palm oil etc), butter an margarine as less as possible.
- Choose whole grains which will give you the most nutritional benefits.
- Don’t forget about nuts and seeds and make them your favorite snack. They are loaded with healthy fat, vitamins and proteins.
- Drink plenty of water, forget about soft drinks because they are loaded with sugar. And don’t forget about wine, drink a glass a day and your good cholesterol levels will rise. Have you ever heard about French paradox?
- Last but not least… fruit and vegetables. Remember to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The more you eat them the healthier you will be.
The best thing would be if we could buy organic fruit and vegetables or grow our own fruit and vegetable garden, but if you are not one of those lucky people, give it a look at our “Fresh fruit and vegetable tips” article, maybe it can help. Another important ingredient of this diet is extra virgin olive oil, use it often, it is healthy and delicious. Read our article “Extra virgin olive oil tips” if you need some help in recognizing fresh and real extra virgin olive oil.