It’s Greek to Me: Foods Greek Centenarians Eat
Want to live to see 100? Try eating like an Ikarian! Located just 30 miles off the Turkish coast, Ikaria is a small Greek island where locals are known to live into triple digits without chronic illnesses like dementia and certain lifestyle cancers.
Blue Zones expert Dan Buettner has extensively studied this population and notes a strong link between their diet and their longevity.
“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 foods that make up the bulk of the Ikarian diet that were identified through this study.
Wild Greens | Dan discovered that the majority of food eaten on the island is harvested from seasonal gardens. Dandelion greens and purslane are two examples of wild greens that can be found at farmers markets here in the United States. They can be eaten like herbs, chopped and worked into salads or sautéed with other meals.
Olive oil | What can be said about olive oil, other than that it’s pure liquid gold? Healthy to both the heart and brain, olive oil is linked to lower inflammation and is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body against harmful free radicals. It’s delicious, too!
Potatoes | Admit it. You hear “potato” and you’re instantly picturing a plate of french fries. Banish that thought from your mind! Potatoes are a nutritional staple when consumed roasted or baked. They’re an excellent source of vitamin B6 and potassium. On top of that, the skin is packed with fiber and vitamin C.
Black-eyed peas | When’s the last time you ate black-eyed peas? This overlooked legume is an excellent source of magnesium and iron. Added bonus: they tend to cause less gas than other types of legumes. To maximize health benefits, buy the beans dried and rehydrate them yourself. This ensures you’re not consuming too much sodium from the canned versions.
Mediterranean herbs | Rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley add flavor to every dish. They lower inflammation, too. Garlic also reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Lemons | Lemon elevates and brightens the flavors in most dishes. It also benefits your digestion and revs up your metabolism. Pro tip: don’t throw out the peel before you zest the lemon, as it’s high in calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.
Chickpeas | This Mediterranean staple is loaded with fiber and protein. This versatile legume can be blended into hummus, or added to salads or stews.
Coffee | There are a ton of reasons to love coffee. The Greeks love it because it’s high in antioxidants and is linked to reduced inflammation.
Honey | Honey has proteins and antibacterial enzymes that can help heal the gut lining and reduce symptoms associated with allergies. It is also high in antioxidants. Bonus: it never expires, so stock up on the good stuff!
Everything on this list can be found at nearly every grocery store in Rockford. The common link amongst all the food identified in the study? Antioxidants, which are shown to reduce inflammation. And reduced inflammation is associated with a longer, healthier life. Opa!