With more and more types of foods becoming readily available in our supermarkets, with labels like “superfood” or “healthy”, as well as certain diet and healthy eating trends being spread all over the internet, it’s hard to know what we should be eating.
It can be hard when it seems like new foods are coming out all of the time. But reality is there’s no magic superfoods factory out there. These foods have been around for thousands of years, it just so happens that for some of them they’re getting their big break.
Just like the cast of Celebrity Big Brother, they’re suddenly known again overnight after years of D-lister status, and seen literally everywhere you look.
Fact of the matter is that certain foods and diets right now are seen as ‘trendy’, as more and more people are sharing pictures of what they’re eating every single day, and these foods are appearing on TV and in magazines.
But what about some of the Worlds healthiest populations, most of which don’t have much access to internet or the outside world. What about those that aren’t influenced by food trends?
Take what you will from these cultures, and apply this information to your current style of eating however you like. However numbers don’t lie, and these are THE healthiest populations on earth, with THE highest life expectancies, THE highest centenarian rates, and THE lowest rates of chronic and degenerative diseases.
The following five “longevity hot spots” have been extensively studied for some time now, with most research pointing to diet as the main factor influencing their health and longevity. Here’s what they eat and their main food sources:
Nicoya, Costa Rica: White rice, black beans, corn tortillas, squash, eggs and fruit. More meat, mostly chicken and port is consumed here than in any of the other zones below. The natural water is very high in minerals, especially calcium. Coffee is consumed daily with some added raw cane sugar.
Sardinia, Italy: Extremely plant dominant diet, with some red wine consumption. Lots of beans and barley. Goats milk and cheese are staples. Meat intake is fairly low, with most coming from lamb, lean pork, oily fish and shellfish. Coffee is also consumed daily.
Okinawa, Japan: Plant dominant diet with large amounts of seaweed. Staples include; sweet potatoes, soy beans and soy products such as tofu and miso. White rice and tea are also typically eaten daily. Minor consumption of fish and pork. This is a higher carbohydrate diet compared to other cultures in this list, and with virtually no eggs or dairy.
Ikaria, Greece: A variation on the Mediterranean diet that’s rich in olives and olive oil, lots of fruits and wild green vegetables. Whole grains are eaten but not overindulged. Fish is their primary source of protein, as well as goat milk and goat cheese. Wine is also traditional. Coffee and tea are drunk regularly.
Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California: Vegetarian diet rich in beans and vegetables, and snacking on nuts. No alcohol consumption. The people of this religious sect also believe in smaller meals towards the end of the day and larger earlier on in the day. They’ve also got a very healthy attitude towards mindfulness, and finding a sense of purpose in life, which on top of their diet also undoubtedly contributes towards their longevity.
What can we learn from these populations?
- They’re all largely plant based.
- People often grow their own fruits and vegetables, or source them locally.
- They do not overeat, and typically have a good relationship and understanding of food and where it comes from.
- They don’t take food for granted, and see the event of sitting down to eat each meal with friends and family as an occasion.
- Meat and fish are eaten, but not overly-so.
- Beans, soy and lentils are a staple for most of these cultures.
- 3 of the 5 zones are regular coffee drinkers. And why not its super healthy and packed with antioxidants.
- 4 of the 5 zones are regular alcohol consumers, but in moderation.
- 4 of the 5 zones consume moderate amounts of fat and carbohydrate, with the low-fat culture (Okinawa) consuming the highest in carbohydrates.
Take home message
The majority of these areas have very little option but to grow their own foods. They don’t take the foods we have available to us for granted, and they have a very healthy relationship with food. They don’t restrict themselves with fat or carbohydrate intake, and they largely live off the land. If they can’t grow it, farm it or get it from nature themselves then they don’t eat it. They also let their hair down sometimes with a bit of alcohol… make what you will from that!