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

How to live to 100: eat no sugar

Posted on August 15th, 2012

I’ve been sharing a few posts on why the people in Ikaria, Greece, live so long. Why it’s a “Blue Zone”. You can catch up here and here on the gist (and there’s more to come). The really big question that dangled during my stay here, however, is where’s the sugar issue sit in all of this?

In his bestseller The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner really doesn’t tick off the issue, but he was pretty keen to hear about my thoughts on sugar and longevity while we were in Ikaria and we debated it – robustly – over the week. I outline things in these two videos that Dan’s National Geographic team shot with me:

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In short, the people here do eat sugar.

Today many put 1-2 teaspoons of sugar or local honey in their coffee or frappes. And they can drink several of these a day.

They also eat honey. They advise a teaspoon of their thyme honey in the morning on an empty stomach. You then eat something a good hour after that. They also eat yoghurt with honey, as well as “sweet fruits” – whole fruit jams made from sour cherries.

But several things:

  • Traditionally, sugar has been a treat, consciously eaten and honey was a delicacy, consumed in small amounts.

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how to make Ikarian soufiko

Posted on July 31st, 2012

As I mentioned a few days back, I came to Ikaria to look at food. Specifically the food the locals here have eaten for eons which might give an insight into why they live so damn long and well.

Athina and her mother Katina cooking Soufiko

I travelled around the island with the National Geographic team for a week chatting to old ladies who still cook like it’s 1856, and their first responses were:

  • fresh vegetables
  • olive oil

In all the food flotsam that gets flung about, I doubt few can dispute the value of these two ingredients. The thing is, here, they’re eating in abundance. Truly.

In Ikaria, it’s the norm to eat straight from the garden. Many, if not most, restaurants have gardens nearby and their menu features whatever they brought in early that morning. At Thea’s Inn, Thea’s husband goes off early to milk the goats and pick the vegetables. He’s back by 10am. Around which time, Thea’s cousin (second? third?) arrives with fish, some honey, herbs…it’s a procession I watch every morning as I drink my warm goat’s milk (Thea sets some aside for me before making the cheese for the following day). Thea and Athina, the other cook, then make the feta and the dishes for the day.

(PS I’ll share a little more on their meat consumption later…for now know, lots of vegetables are core.)

This is not just custom. Or the only option. It’s also a way of life that Ikarians are adamant is the only way to go. I’ve spoken (via translators) to a lot of oldies. They are vocal and passionate about eating fresh, to the point of Read more