Intrigued by the world’s longevity hotspots? So are we. I’m particularly interested in the so-called Blue Zones because their inhabitants never take supplements (or join gyms!) and yet they have fabulously long, disease-free lives by doing very ordinary things. Which means we can too.
Every so often a new longevity hot spot or blue zone is identified – an area where the average inhabitant lives longer and with less illness than their counterpart in either the next village or the rest of the world. Recently talk has centred on the village of Pioppi, two hours south of Naples in Italy. Indeed, Pioppi has become the source of yet another new diet book, The Pioppi Diet. In Pioppi the average man lives to the age of 89 but without any of the chronic ageing diseases we see here. Pioppi-natives follow a traditional Italian diet, but they eat sweet things only once a week and consume no processed or fast food. According to Dr Malhotra, co-author of The Pioppi Diet, the inhabitants of this village also move a lot, sleep well, have little stress, and live in an inclusive community. But it’s their diet that Dr Malhotra thinks is key. I’ll summarise it for you:
- 3 meals a day;
- 2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil a day;
- a handful of tree nuts every day (read why we’re nuts about nuts here);
- 5-7 portions of fibrous veggies and low-sugar fruit a day;
- full-fat dairy produce (hooray!);
- at least ten eggs a week;
- fatty fish three times a week;
- a large glass of red wine, daily.
Dr Malhotra has divested his own larder of the following items: anything with added sugar; all refined carbs; industrial seed oils (ie sunflower oil); and processed red meat. I can’t tell you how good it is to see a bona fide GP and cardiologist recognising the importance of diet. Here he is, in his own words: “I read all the research I could and concluded that simple lifestyle changes such as consuming less sugar were more powerful than any medication doctors can prescribe.” Wow!
You can read more about Pioppi and Doctor Malhotra at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/lose-weight-live-longer-dr-aseem-malhotra-reveals-secrets-worlds/
But before Pioppi, there were the original Blue Zones studied by Dan Buettner and then Jamie Oliver (we wrote about them here): Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece, Loma Linda in the US and Nicoya in Costa Rica
Before that, Jon Robbins wrote about Abkhasia in the Caucasus, Vilcabamba in Ecuador, Hunza in Pakistan and (again) Okinawa in Japan. And before that, Sally Beare, wrote about Symi in Greece, Campodimele in Italy, Bama in China and (again) Okinawa and Hunza.
As we head off for the summer, I thought I’d reiterate some of Sally Beare’s original findings, which have certainly inspired me:
- Walk up and down hills (many longevity hot spots are in mountainous regions and it’s thought the hill walking contributes to cardiovascular health and bone density among other things)
- Use herbs and spices rather than salt
- Stay at the table for five minutes after eating
- Eat every part of the plant, from peel to pip
- Grow plants – for exercise, vitamin D and to get some super fresh produce. A pot is all you need!
- Eat some probiotic-rich fermented food (miso, kefir or live yogurt, pickled or fermented veg)
- Have a glass of organic red wine with a meal (in most longevity hot spots a glass of wine is enjoyed every day)
- Eat sourdough or sprouted bread (I’m not familiar with sprouted bread but they eat it in Hunza – a post for the future, perhaps?)
- Cook orange, red and yellow foods (they release more antioxidant carotenoids when cooked apparently) and serve with olive oil or mashed avocado to further increase take-up of fat-soluble carotenoids
- Relax – in Okinawa and Bama it’s normal to meditate but in other hot spots it’s equally normal to sit and admire the view, a meditative process in its own way.
You can read a fuller version of Sally Beare’s tips in the August issue of Psychologies Magazine or grab her book, 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People (Marlowe & Co £12.99). And you can check out her Ten Basic Food Rules for a Healthy Life at https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-25677/basic-food-rules-for-a-long-healthy-life.html. Sally has been kind enough to give us one of her favourite ‘longevity’ recipes from the Italian village of Campodimele and we’ll be revealing it in the autumn.
What’s so interesting about all these longevity hotspots is the underlying themes: very little sugar; lots of exercise; low stress, close-knit communities; fresh home-cooked food that’s heavily plant-based; limited red wine. AND NO PROCESSED FOOD.
So. Want to know what Doctor Malhotra has for breakfast? Get this …A single espresso mixed with 1 tbsp of coconut oil, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp raw cacao powder and I tsp cinnamon… with a square of dark chocolate, a handful of nuts and an apple. If any of you feel like sampling his espresso and letting us know what it’s like, we’re all ears…
TOMATOES WITH MOZZARELLA AND BASIL
I know you’re all familiar with this classic Italian dish. But done properly (with the best quality buffalo mozzarella you can afford, really fresh, ripe tomatoes in a variety of shapes and colours, a decent extra-virgin olive oil and generous handfuls of pungent basil), it’s nirvana. I re-discovered it after eating an exquisite version in a London restaurant recently, and I’ve been making it ever since – seeking out striped tomatoes, green tomatoes, orange and yellow tomatoes to make it look as good as it tastes.
- Tomatoes (allow 2 per person)
- Buffalo mozzarella (allow 50g per person)
- Fresh basil
- Extra virgin olive oil (allow 1/2 tbsp. per person)
Slice the tomatoes. Slice the mozzarella. Arrange, season, scatter with the basil, drizzle with the olive oil and serve with a green salad and good bread to mop up the juices.
Happy, effortless holidays to all our readers!
Doreen Boon says
Loved this article, I have been overweight most of my life and since turning 60 it has become more and more difficult to keep weight from piling on. I moved from the Uk to Spain 2 years ago and live in a village with lots of hills so have already noticed my stamina improving. I dance twice a week at the local Flamenco class which has helped me get to know women from a range of countries, though predominantly local Spanish women ……. all who look years younger than they actually are.
I have spent the past 40 years buying low fat products and avoiding nuts and olive oil because of the calories but love the Mediterranean diet. But I do have a sweet tooth and eat ice cream for dessert every night!
This has inspired me to ditch the low fat diet, cut out the ice cream and maybe have that glass of wine instead (also something I haven’t allowed myself because of the calories) and have a go at following this new way of living?
Fingers crossed ?
Doreen Boon says
Loved this article, it has inspired me to ditch the almost life long use of low fat products and avoidance of olive oil and nuts that I have been living and embrace a new lifestyle. I moved to Spain 2 years ago and now have all the resources of fresh fruit, herbs and veg around me plus live in a village with a lot of hills so it is definitely the ideal time in my life! But I love my ice cream! Any suggestions of how to wean myself off it? Perhaps a glass of red wine after my meal at night instead?
Susan Saunders says
Hi Doreen, we love the sound of your new life in Spain – the perfect opportunity to follow the Mediterranean Diet and way of life! Your idea to swap ice cream for a glass of red wine is a good one, but maybe swap in some fresh fruit some evenings and do give our banana nice cream a go. The recipe is here https://agewellproject.com/depression-refined-carbs-and-the-healthiest-ever-ice-cream/
Do let us know how you get on with your new lifestyle!
So no meat?
Susan Saunders says
In most of the Blue Zones very small amounts of meat are consumed
Blue zones need to be looked at, as you say, in their entirety. There is no ‘diet’ as such because they also exercise more, have closer families etc etc. It’s an entire lifestyle and just following the diet alone may not have the same effects. Interesting piece.
Annabel Abbs says
We agree – it’s the whole package!
Great to hear about Blue Zones and yes it is an entire lifestyle and isn’t that what good health is all about, not doing things in isolation. Laughter and gratitude also play such valuable roles too. I have coffee, coconut oil, cinnamon and ghee for breakfast 3 or 4 days a week, I love it. Another great post, I do look forward to reading them and always learning something new.
Annabel Abbs says
Great to hear your feedback on the spiced coffee. I have yet to try it but have been experimenting with iced coffee. Watch this space!
Obviously diet and activity play a large part in maintaining the health of these ‘blue’ villagers but so do their ancestors. The fact that there are these small pockets of longevity suggests that the inhabitants have a genetic advantage too.
Annabel Abbs says
Interesting point, Susie. So many factors really…
thanks for the share. i would surely try the recipe.