On the Greek island of Ikaria, known as “the island where people forget to die” obesity is unheard of, people suffer 80 per cent less dementia (WOW!), 50 per cent less heart disease and 20 per cent less cancer than the rest of the world. Diabetes type II is not a thing. Four times as many men live into their 90’s. And they don't just live long they tend to be in more robust health, with less need for costly, high-tech medical care than their "western" counterparts.
Ikaria first came to prominence when National Geographic journalist, Dan Beuttner and his team, discovered the island as a Blue Zone. There are five Blue Zones in the world – small pockets on earth where the population enjoys longer lifespans than the average. Okinawa, Sardinia, Nicoya in Costa Rica and Loma Linda in California all share with Ikaria this prestigious title.
Naturally, researchers, health enthusiasts and the wider community have researched the how and why these Blue Zones have become that way. In 2016, Marcus Pearce and naturopath, nutritionist and media health guru Dr Damian Kristof visited the small Greek Island of Ikaria and wrote about it. In their words, " Ikarians have a strong sense of purpose (or reason for living), move regularly, socialise with their friends and family religiously and have an incredibly strong faith. Naturally enough though, we were fascinated by the food. For 10 straight days we wined and dined on the exquisite Ikarian version of the Mediterranean Diet."
So what did the National Geographic and subsequent research find regarding the Ikaria’s version of the Mediterranean diet?
Bone Broth – The Ikarians consume copious amounts of bone broth before their panigiris (local festival that can attract up to 2000 people). Broth is consumed to line the stomach, allowing people to spend longer at the festival eating, drinking and dancing with their friends and family. Whilst goat is the feast animal of Ikaria, they commonly make broth from cow, fish and so on. Animal broths are known to help protect joints, critical for the improvement and maintenance of gut health and proven to build a bullet-proof immune system function, as well as aid in detoxification and skin maintenance, and improve your metabolism. Healthy fats from the marrow of the bone are also associated with improved energy, reduced risk of dementia and improved cognitive abilities. Those are some good reasons to make broth a part of your lifestyle. For slow-cooked marrow-rich broth . . .
Vitamin D – Ikarians walk a lot, consequently, they get bucket-loads of vitamin D. You don’t need to live on a Greek island to get adequate vitamin D; you just need to spend time outdoors, and supplement where necessary. Vitamin D3 helps all major functions of the body, notably immune function, bone and teeth health and provides resistance against major disease. This one goes hand in hand with exercise. Regular activity is a constant of not only a long but a healthy life.
Fresh-Raw Vegetables - At lunch, salads made of beans, legumes and potatoes, along with cooked fresh garden vegetables are standard fare and prepared with generous amounts of olive oil.
Olive Oil – Most, if not all Ikarian families grow their own grapes and olives. Olive oil is best consumed from close to the source and always buy olive oil in dark bottles (or tins). The benefits are again in line with the reduced dementia, heart disease and cancer stats on Ikaria. Olive oil is proven to reduce inflammation, may help to prevent strokes, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, plus is a great anti-bacterial agent. I do as the Ikarians do, and drizzle a generous amount of this “superfood” on breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Coffee – Like many longevity cultures, coffee is a staple in the diet. Greek coffee is served black, and it typically has a foam top (the more foam the better!). Research results on coffee intake has shown longer lifespans, reduced risk of heart disease, some cancer, liver disease and diabetes.
Rosemary – Ikarians when not drinking coffee are enjoying the
local rosemary tea. If a tea was shown to improve digestion, cognitive function, prevent cancer, improve skin conditions, reduce inflammation (and ease the pain associated with it), reduce anxiety, improve liver function and boost hair health – would you drink it?
Probiotics in wine – Ikarians take great pride in consuming high-quality, home-grown and harvested wine. Homer wrote parts of The Odyssey whilst enjoying the local fermented grape juice. Ikarian wine has no artificial preservatives, is full of antioxidants and up to 11 probiotic strains and is enjoyed on a daily basis. Many health professionals are wary to advocate alcohol for health, however, there is a strong body of evidence to suggest the social and responsible consumption of good quality red wine creates a healthy response in the body.
Sounds like time for a meal of fresh vegetables drizzled in a sauce of olive oil and bone broth accompanied by some nice wine - but first some activity : )
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