Secrets of the Sicilians

There are 7 blue zones across the globe, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California, Ikaria in Greece; province of Ogliastra in Sardinia, Italy; the Seventh-Day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

These people have a set of things in common- their lifestyle. This lifestyle is not a rigid list of things on a piece of paper which they tick off once achieved but rather an ingrained way of life learned from generations before, and in tune with feeling good and overall health. The blue zones lifestyle is also incredibly simple and centred around taking things slower with less focus on material things.

What are some of the principles they’ve adopted?

  • Be generally active and move throughout the day. This is not necessarily vigorous exercise but small things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking instead of driving.
  • Have a sense of purpose whether that be charitable work, looking after grandkids or uplifting your community. Feeling like you are making a positive contribution and a reason to get up every day.
  • Stress must also be managed and daily activities to ‘downshift’ are adopted, however downshifting doesn’t mean watching TV.
  • The Japanese call it hara hachi bu, to eat until you are 80% full

And like many Japanese, your food should be made up of mostly plants, beans/legumes, vegetables and fruit

  • Have some wine with your food, but again, in moderation
  • Be part of a church, or faith-based community also makes one feel a sense of belonging and purpose for good
  • Build and foster strong bonds and connections with your friends and family. They are part of your support system.

Over 300 centenarians (people aged 100 and older) were interviewed by Blue Zones researchers; and one interviewee stood out in particular. He is 102-year old Sicilian man who shared his daily habits for a life well lived.

He eats pasta with olive oil and garlic every day, as well as one glass of red wine with lunch. Over and above pasta, his diet consists mostly of toasted fava beans, or broad beans, green beans, wild greens, bread and figs. And all of these foods are available locally and grown in the region. Interestingly, this man did not grow up eating meat or fish and does not include it in his diet. One thing he made sure to mention was his faith in God and that he attended church weekly.