If you would like to live to 100, Blue Zones expert Dan Buettner says an Ikarian diet is a key component! This famous Greek island, where locals are known to live beyond the age of triple digits without diseases and illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimers, depression, and heart disease, have now shared their secrets to the world to try and encourage others to consume foods that are beneficial to the body, mind, and soul.
The Greek diet is well-known around the world for ensuring longevity and Buettner says that eating like an Ikarian is the purest form of the Mediterranean diet. “The local diet is unique from other Greek, Italian, and nearby islands because of its focus on beans and legumes—especially chickpeas and lentils—and wild greens,” he says.
There are nine healthy Greek foods considered staples in the Ikarian diet and if your goal is to live a long life, below are the ingredients to add to your dishes that can help you reach that century!
WILD GREENS (XORTA)
Seasonal Xorta, which are grown in most Ikarian gardens provides the purest form of the Mediterranean diet in the world, says Buettner. Wild greens are extremely high in antioxidants, with a study showing that they contain more antioxidants than blueberries. If you don’t live in Greece, you can still enjoy Xorta, as you can use almost any leafy green vegetable you can get your hands on, including endive, dandelion (Radikia), spinach, purslane, beetroot leaves, chicory or amaranth (Vlita).
All these leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals as they are high in vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, fibre, and potassium, plus low in calories.
Olive oil is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin K and vitamin E. It also contains calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium. Worldwide studies have linked the consumption of olive oil with health benefits, such as a heightened immune system, anti-inflammatory properties, and protection against Alzheimer’s. Specifically, Greek extra virgin olive oil, in comparison with other olive oils on the market, has the lowest acidity (approximately 0.5%), way below the minimum 0.9% setup from the EU and US authorities. Consuming Greek olive oil is one of the best products you can add to your diet, in order to gain major health benefits.
Ikarians use olive oil for dressing their salads and vegetables as well as for cooking.
Potatoes are high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content and coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health. Potatoes contain significant amounts of fiber. Fiber helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease. Ikarians use potatoes for baking, they add them into their salads boiled, and they are also great in soups.
The flavonoids in beans may help reduce heart disease and cancer risk. Phytosterols, also in legumes, help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Black-eyed peas provide a number of nutrients, are a rich source of fiber and can be used in a number of recipes. For vegetarians, such beans can provide a needed source of iron. Black-eyed peas are made in soup and salad form.
Most herb lovers agree Greek Oregano is the most flavoursome and without a doubt one of the best herbs in the world. Oregano grows practically everywhere in Greece and whether fresh or dried, it adds beneficial properties along with its characteristic fragrance and flavours to many dishes. Oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, parsley is linked to lowering inflammation. One that’s especially powerful is garlic, which Ikarians love and add to many of their dishes both cooked and raw!
Whether you add slices to your water or use the citrus fruit to brighten up your meals, lemon revs up your metabolism and helps with digestion and is high in calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.
Chickpeas are a Greek staple and loaded with benefits including being a fiber- and protein-rich alternative to meat. They are made in soup and salad forms.
Worldwide studies throughout the years have shown that Greek coffee has major health benefits, going as far as to say that drinking a cup of Elliniko kafe a day can increase your lifespan! Boiled Greek type of coffee, which is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, and contains only a moderate amount of caffeine, seems to gather benefits compared to other coffee beverages,” says University of Athens professor and study leader Gerasimos Siasos.
According to many studies, Greek coffee can reduce the risk of premature death. For instance, experts found that people on the island of Ikaria, who drink boiled Greek coffee at least once per day, have better cardiovascular health compared to others, with most locals living beyond 90 years of age.
Greek honey is one of the most nutritional, natural foods, filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Honey contains anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal substances and has also been used for centuries as a treatment for sore throats and coughs, minor burns, cuts and other bacterial infections.
Studies show that honey is one of the easiest foods to digest and is known for its cancer-fighting properties (rich in phenolic compounds) and also aids in the prevention of osteoporosis.