This is the third part in our 5-part on life in the “Blue Zones,” where people live longer, healthy lives. Each part will look into the diets and lifestyles of the areas where longevity is a normal part of aging better. Who doesn’t want to know their secrets?
Sardinia is one of five “Blue Zones” — a concept first introduced in the early 2000s and defined as an area in which the population has exceptionally low rates of chronic disease and individuals known to outlive those in other parts of the world. Sardinia is the second largest Italian island and sits in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It was the first region of the world to be identified as having exceptional longevity and was the basis for the establishment of the term “Blue Zone.” A mostly plant-based diet, physical activity, and community seem to be the most important contributing factors to the well-known longevity of this region.
Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, and grass-fed dairy products are amongst the top foods consumed in Sardinia, according to a recent study that collected information regarding dietary habits of this region using a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). These findings indicate that the diet of Sardinians is primarily plant-based and strongly reflects the Mediterranean diet pattern. One defining characteristic of this region’s diet is that they drink wine in moderation, sometimes consuming 2-3 glasses per day. More specifically, Sardinians drink Cannonau wine, which has 2-3x more flavonoids than other wines, and has been attributed by many in Sardinia to help manage stress.
Based on Sardinia’s location in the Mediterranean Sea, you may suspect they commonly consume seafood. However, one study found that consumption of fish was scarce amongst this region’s centenarians. The foods consumed in this region are largely influenced by the local economy. Much of the arable land in Sardinia is used for the growth of fruits and cereals, and for the breeding of sheep and goats. Sardinians are known for being self-sufficient, and hunting and gathering to support their nutritional needs.
Much of the diet in this region consists of whole foods, and because of this, herbs and spices play a large role in the flavoring of many of this region’s delicacies. Here are some of the spices and herbs used throughout this region:
Physical activity is weaved into the daily lives of Sardinians. It is a heavily mountainous region with sloped land for physical activity. Sardinians are known for ‘grazing’ – taking long daily walks often covering over five miles of land.
Sardinians have strong family and community values. The elders in the community are looked up to and often gone to for advice on a wide range of topics. The men in particular, are known for their sarcasm and often gather in the streets in the afternoon to talk and laugh with one another.
It’s also important to note that this region is quite isolated, so the culture has not had much outside influence. The culture has largely remained the same for centuries, and Sardinia’s residents continue to value a relatively traditional, healthy lifestyle.
No matter where you live in the world, you can learn a thing or two from the way Sardinians live! Maybe it’s including more plant foods in your diet or spending more time outside walking – seemingly small changes can make a big difference on your overall health.
Learn more about Blue Zone diets in:
Canelada Fernández, A. (2021). The Blue Zone of Sardinia: An intergenerational epidemiological study on nutrition and its application in Public Health.