There are a few areas in the world, termed Blue Zones where the people live to a ripe old age, hitting 100 years of age with ease: Sardinia in the Mediterranean, Okinawa in Japan, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica and Loma Linda in California. And what do these areas have in common, apart from really old people? A great diet.
This is why the Mediterranean diet has long been considered one of the healthiest in the world.
It is a whole diet approach, so rather than cutting out everything it's all about balance. You eat a variety of foods from a range of food groups. It is largely based in colour, as each colour provides us with different essential nutrients. So remember, eat the rainbow!
Nutritionist May Simpkin told Healthista how you can easily adopt the Mediterranean diet and stick to it. She suggests the following eight tips.
How to live longer:
Eat your five plus a day and make sure that you include a variety of colours as they represent different nutrients that the body needs.
For example, the red colour in tomatoes and watermelon is the result of lycopene, an antioxidant which protects against prostate and breast cancers.
1. Eat your veges
While the deep purple colour of aubergines and blueberries is from the anthocyanins which protect against free radicals.
Beta-carotene produces the orange colour of carrots and pumpkins, and is an antecedent of vitamin A, which is great for our eye health.
2. Eat fish & cut red meat
According to the Mediterranean diet we should be eating a lot more fish, about 2-3 times a week in fact. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are the best because they contain high levels of omega 3 and protein.
Alternatively walnuts, avocado and flaxseeds are great plant-based sources.
Red meat should be eaten in small amounts as it contains more saturated fats than lean cuts like chicken and fish.
3. Eat healthy fats
You can get your healthy fat intake, as well as lots of protein and fibre, from lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts and seeds. You should be eating these on a daily basis but make sure to be aware of your portion sizes. Eight to 10 nuts is a good amount.
You can also get healthy fats from olive and avocado oil , about 5-6 teaspoons a day or quarter of an avocado is about right. Salads are a great way to include these healthy fats.
4. Limit dairy
You only need about one to two servings of dairy a day. Fresh curd cheeses such as feta and ricotta are better because they are easier to digest.
Don't limit your eggs! They are a great source of protein.
5. Make better choices
Choose wholegrain and sourdough bread over white bread. Choose whole wheat pasta over normal pasta. Choose brown rice over white rice. Choose fresh fruit over donuts, cakes and ice cream. Choose dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate. The refined options lack nutrients and fibre.
6. Eat antioxidants
Make sure to add herbs to your dishes as they are great sources of antioxidants plus they make everything taste delicious.
7. What to drink
Water should be your drink of choice. Make sure to take a bottle to work with you and keep track of your intake. Coffee and green tea are okay in small amounts- about 1 cup a day.
Alcohol should be consumed in moderation. One glass of red wine a day with dinner can actually be beneficial for you- as it has the antioxidant resveratrol.
8. Eat seasonally
Eat seasonally is good for you and your wallet. Produce that is in season has the highest nutritional content and is the cheapest! This is also a great way to get some variation into your diet and try something new.
• Choose mainly plant based foods.
• Eat until you are 80 per cent full - which may possibly be the hardest rule to follow.