Why do Sardinians live so long?

Posted on September 4th, 2013

You might recall this time last year I visited the Blue Zone in Ikaria, where people live a ludicrously long time. No? Well, I spent six weeks on the rugged Greek island with National Geographic, looking at various factors contributing to their abnormal longevity.

Sardinian mural... of men...

Sardinian mural…of men.

To refresh, I found that pork, wine, walking and eating no sugar all play a role. Now, to complete a bit of a circle, I’ve just left Italian island Sardinia, another of the five Blue Zones (the others are Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica and Loma Linda in CA) and I’m trying to form a picture of what might be contributing to this freaky phenomenon.

Cop this: on an island of about 1.6 million people, 371 (as of last year) are over the age of 100. It’s accepted as a “thing” that islanders have an expression: A Chent’Annos (“May you live to 100”). I should highlight, though, that the phenomenon here applies in particular to men. Yes! Weirder, still!

Having spoken to a bunch of people in the past three weeks of travelling across the island, including through the isolated and largely unvisited interior where most of the centenarians live, I’ve ascertained a few factors. Pretty much all of them are things I bang on about here on this blog as general wellness advice.


Sardinia is rugged and mountainous, as is Ikaria. This has meant to get anywhere the locals – mostly shepherds who had to wander after their stock all day – had to hike. Not just walk, but hike, which adds an extra dimension of robustness to things. I posted my thoughts on hiking and healing yesterday.

The wind.

One Sardinian academic believes the wind adds a certain element to the air here. They also attribute the long-living tendencies to the magnetic fields on the island. Everywhere I went folk mentioned the “energy” of the Read more

how to live to 100: drink wine and walk

Posted on June 19th, 2013

I’ve written about my visit to Ikaria a few times, through a little series that’s evolved on my blog titled “How to live to 100″. Paniyiris and wine, eating no sugar and eating pork are some of the tricks I came across.

Stamatis Moraitis tending his vineyard and olive grove on Ikaria.

Stamatis Moraitis, 102, tending his vineyard and olive grove.

Recently my mate Dan Buettner, a National Geographic adventurer and author of the New York Times bestseller The Blue Zones has been out and about spreading the word on the place, based on our trip there together last year. It’s been interesting to see what other journalists (who’ve since travelled to the island to see things for themselves) have found. Here a bit of a list drawn from Guardian and New York Times articles, from the mouths of the oldies themselves.

Drink wine and walk.

Gregoris Tsahas, 100: Drinks two glasses of red wine a day. And walks four hilly kilometres a day from his house to his local cafe and back.

Rest when you need to and sleep with the window open.

Kostas Sponsas, 100: “If I feel tired, I read. It rests my mind.” He never eats fried food. Always sleeps well and with the window open. Drinks herbal teas and red wine with his food.

Stamatis Moraitis, 102: Wakes up when he feels like it, works the vineyards til mid afternoon, has lunch and Read more

Fish soup with kale, plus 6 other ways to eat more greens

Posted on September 4th, 2012

Greens. I get quite obsessed. I always feel that if I get at least 3 cups of the stuff into my gob each day, then I have a leave pass with the rest of my diet. Within reason.

In Europe, however, it’s been tough going in the cruciferous, leafy and folic department. Mostly it’s been pork. And potatoes. Actually, hold the potatoes, I’ll have – OK, you only have lettuce? – some lettuce. And an olive. I outlined in a previous post how I get my greens when travelling – it’s a challenge, but there are ways. Anyway, as an ode to this challenge, and because I’m craving the damn stuff, and because it’s spring back home and a fine ‘ole time to eat spinach, silverbeet (also called Swiss chard) and kale, here are some great green recipes that don’t involve a ton of ingredients, and can be made as a quick Inject My Life With Goodness meal.

This first one is an ode to Marija, my photographer mate who travelled with me in Copenhagen and Iceland. We ate fish soup in the latter and we almost cried from culinary happiness. This recipe is for her to make back home!! Ya hear me Maj? It’s a modified version of a chowder recipe I read a while back.

Fish soup with kale

  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1  carrot, chopped
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 4 minutes, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup fennel, chopped
  • A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, a strip of orange zest, a couple of sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a dried red chili if desired, tied together with a string Read more