Blue Zones: Diet advice from a 105 year old
Recently my wife and I went on holiday to the Greek island of Ikaria, where there are people who famously live well into their 90s and 100’s in good health. We met the lovely 105 year old Ioanna, and even heard a report of someone who is 115 and still going strong!
There are number of factors contributing to this amazing longevity and we have been exploring them in this series of three blog posts on the Blue Zones. This is the second blog post where Ioanna gives us her advice on diet.
Ioanna told us that although she was a very young child, that she had lived through World War 1 and into World War 2. She said she got married in the second World War in order to have companionship and not feel alone. She didn’t talk about her husband any more than this so who knows what happened there, but she did tell us a lot about her diet!
I’ll just summarise now that her advice is very much in keeping with the advice in the Blue Zones book by Dan Buettner. I highly recommend the book but if you don’t have time then you’ll get a fair idea about the recommendations for diet from the following post.
Ioanna lives by a rather simple diet that is probably much older than she is. Though with that said I don’t feel she was trying to live to 105, she seems as surprised by it as anyone… But she also doesn’t look to be giving up any time soon!
Now for her advice:
Ioanna said she doesnt eat very much meat and she has a lot of vegetables and fruits.
She said that fish was okay and I think she maybe ate a little bit of chicken now and then, but she didn’t have any red meats.
In terms of oil she said she really liked olive oil on her salads and that she used a little corn oil in cooking, but she said she didnt eat any butter.
Ioanna did also say don’t fry things, that its bad to fry food and you should bake or boil them instead.
And in terms of fruit and vegetables, she said that she eats everthings like potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes, things like that. There are figs and grapes growing outside her front door, so she certainly eats fresh fruit on a daily basis!
She doesn’t have a big or heavy meal in the evening. She just has a snack and very weak milky coffee.
Ioanna said she quite enjoyed a coffee and a few figs and also maybe a few biscuits in the evening. And she seems to be okay with eating a little bit of sugar now and then.
She also said that every morning she’d have a teaspoon of Ikarian honey and it was quite nice.
Ioanna says she enjoys a little bit of wine with water now and then.
She said she doesn’t drink beer or the famous Greek drink of Ouzo or Tsipouro or the stronger spirits, just a little bit of wine and water. (She has a habit of repeating herself but that can be helpful for us young folk with our short attention spans)
One of her gems about drinking alcohol “Drink wine if you can drink it, but not if it drinks you!”
So as you can see Ioanna has quite a simple diet. and I would say probably everything in Ikaria that she eats is essentially organic, because everything is grown naturally from the land. I think it’s quite good volcanic soil, high in nutrients and they are still farming and growing in the traditional Greek style.
It’s a very fertile land, there’s fruit growing everywhere, right outside her front door there are grape vines and fruit trees.
The island also has its own underground water source and receives more rain than the average Greek islands in the autumn, winter and spring so I think that helps a lot.
It’s more difficult for those of us who live in the colder countries and more temperate climates as things don’t grow quite as easily or reliably… and there’s not much food just growing on the trees where I live!
If you’d like to read more then there’s more information on diet in the Blue Zones book, and they generally agree with Ioanna (in fact I’m quite sure she contributed to the book)
To summarise Ioanna eats a little bit of meat, mostly fruits and vegetables and also nuts, she drinks a little bit of red wine,
And one of the main things she said is that she doesn’t eat in the evening.
So she’s right on track with the diet recommendations in the Blue Zone book.
There’s also a growing belief that Greek coffee has anti ageing benefits, which is good for coffee drinkers to know 🙂
I hope you’ve enjoyed Blue Zones blog post no. 2, the next and final part will be blog post no. 3 where I ask Ioanna about her opinion on whether the young people of today have as good a chance to live to 105 as she did!
Please post any questions below or any advice that you’d like to share on longevity and healthy ageing