Nowhere is the colourful Mediterranean diet better exemplified than in the island of Sardinia where goats or sheep graze in the family olive groves and fish are eaten with tomatoes, whole grain pasta and a little wine.
Sardinia has mountains to almost 4,000 metres and lies surrounded by the Mediterranean sea, its northerly tip below Rome and its southerly tip pointing towards Tunisia. There are 1.6 million inhabitants. Although there has been an influx of immigration in recent years, the island has more 80, 90 and 100 year old people per head of population than anywhere else in Europe.
In the year 2000, Michel Poulain, a Belgian, now Emeritus Professor at Louvain University identified the province of Nuoro as having the most male centenarians in Europe, and introduced the concept of The Blue Zone (from the blue circle he drew around the area), with Gianni Pes, to denote an area of exceptionally high longevity.
It is an area where the men live as long as the women, and the village of Seulo had the most centenarians in the World over a 20 year period.
This Blue Zone exemplifies the Lifestyle nature of the Rainbow Diet:
- The Family is above all else. Many generations live in close proximity; land is handed down, farms have been in the family for centuries; the aged are looked after by the young; the community is strong.
- The food is locally grown often traditionally without pesticides, whole grains, vegetables, pulses, tomatoes, fruits, olive oil.
- It’s a plant-based diet, but they are neither vegans nor vegetarians. Goats’ cheese, eaten unpasteurised on a slab of whole grain bread is breakfast; lunch will be colourful dishes of whole pasta and vegetables, only little meat (goats in the mountains, sheep and fish nearer the sea). Of course, there are eggs. One lady on her 101st birthday told a reporter when asked the secret of her long life “two fingers of red wine every lunch time”.
- It’s an outdoor life; they all exercise naturally, walking in the hills behind their flocks. The exercise is regular, even if only moderate. They will meet in the village square at lunch time, laugh, talk, their brains as active as their bodies.
- The last meal of the day may well routinely occur at 5.30 pm. Yes, it’s time-restricted fasting. But these people are quite plump.
- They clearly have strong immune systems; there was only one case of Covid on the Island, brought in by a visitor. No deaths.
- They are Catholics; the Church, the community, spirituality are all important.
- Stress is not a word in their vocabulary. They have a purpose in life and that over-rides stress.
As we have always maintained, the word ‘diet’ is a word linked to restriction. The Ketogenic Diet tells you as much about what you cannot eat as what you can.
The Rainbow Diet is actually a Lifestyle plan, where sun, sea and nature meet. A lifestyle where you nourish your mind as much as you nourish your body. Exercise is nourishing; the warmth of the sun is nourishing; a little red wine is nourishing; conversation is nourishing; family values are nourishing.
And typically in this modern world of rushed understanding and fast food, it is quite ridiculous that certain Americans think the Rainbow Diet is all about throwing colourful fruits into a blender (high sugar?), or write books about the vitamin content in fruits and vegetables.
The average adult in the UK has their first chronic illness at 60 years of age. They live their last 15 years with at least one chronic illness. 27% of the adult population has metabolic syndrome; meaning they have three symptoms (like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol) out of five, increasing their risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and strokes. They are LAZY; lazy in body; lazy in mind; they have lost their sense of values.
They live old and sick before their time.
The people in Sardinia show us all the way to live younger and longer.