Is this the answer to longevity?

I read an article in the lead up to Christmas that has stuck with me, and for those I’ve spoken to since then, I have probably mentioned it to you. It appeared in The New York Times on the 24th October 2012, and through Twitter I was lucky to stumble across it. Called ‘The Island Where People Forget to Die‘ it makes for a very interesting (and long) read..

It focuses on the life of a beautiful Greek gentleman called Stamatis Moraitis who following the war moved to America and started a family. In his 60’s, feeling unwell he sought medical advice and discovered he had lung cancer. Giving him only 9 months to live he decided to return to his island home – Ikaria.

Ikaria lies in the Aegean Sea and Stamatis, and his wife and parents moved into a house on 2 acres of land filled with vineyards. He had decided that rather than take on aggressive treatment he would like to be home where he could be buried with his ancestors.

Over the coming months Stamatis reconnected with friends over a bottle of wine, and when feeling stronger, planted his vegetable garden, and tended to the vines. He took naps and walked down to the local tavern to play dominoes with his friends, he ate well, loved and subsequently lived. At the time of printing Stamatis was 97 years old with no signs of cancer.

ikariaThe article continues on talking about other such amazing stories of this island where people live to a ripe old age in fabulous health and discusses whether it is related to genes, environment or miraculous soil. However one passage stayed with me:

“Of course, it may not be only what they’re eating; it may also be what they’re not eating. “Are they doing something positive, or is it the absence of something negative?” ”

It is certain that they are eating fresh, local wonderful produce such as cucumbers and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, beans and lentils, fresh fish and meat, drinking beautiful wine, and loving and laughing and napping. However the absence of something negative could be even more powerful.

This wonderful haven has not been spoilt by chemicals in their soil, isn’t over run with processed food and their diets are almost void of refined sugars and flours, with most bread handmade from stoneground wheat containing all the nutrients available. They are not drinking soda, nor burdening their systems with drugs or medications. Their panacea is honey – of which an abundance of varieties are available unique to the island, and herbal tea which they drink at the end of the day as a nightcap – but which doubles as a medicine.

It is a fascinating read and a testament to why we should all try and eat such a wonderful fresh, local diet full of fruit and vegetables, beans and lentils, lean meat, fish, olive oil and wine and try and remove highly processed, packaged, chemical laden foods from our diets in the hope of removing that ‘something negative’… I am not suggesting we can all move to such a wonderful island, however can we try and emulate these results at home?

As food for thought – what could you eliminate from your diet? What could you start making from scratch to reduce the chemical/sodium/sugar load?

I am inspired to make a batch of my own wonderful italian style tomato sauce, and to eat simple salads of beans and vegetables drizzled with the best quality olive oil.. How about you?

M xx