Whether you are reading this in January, right at the end of the Holidays, or at any point during the year, when you are ready to start eating healthy, we’ll do our best to answer your questions.
Before answering the question in the title, “Is the Italian diet the healthiest in the world?”, we need to look at one thing: What’s a healthy diet?
Wikipedia defines a healthy diet as follows:
“A healthy diet is a diet that maintains or improves overall health.”
The World Health Organization states the following:
“A healthy diet helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes, heat disease, stroke and cancer.”
Cena and Calder define a healthy diet as follows in their research paper published in 2020 in the National Libray of Medicine.
“A healthy diet is one in which micronutrients are consumed in appropriate proportions to support energetic and physiologic needs without excess intake while also providing sufficient micronutrients and hydration to meet the physiologic needs of the body.”
In my opinion, and you probably agree, a healthy diet is one that helps you live a healthy life with less illness and for a longer time.
It’s thus important to consider longevity when discussing healthy diets. That’s exactly what we’ll do in this article while answering many of the common questions around this topic.
Let’s start, shall we?
Let’s sum up what we just found out about the healthiest diet in the world for longevity.
- The Mediterranean diet, and the Japanese diet, are considered to be the healthiest diets in the world
- Asian countries, along with a few countries in the Mediterranean, and central and northern Europe have the longest life expectancy – Hong Kong being the number one in Asia, Switzerland the number one in Central Europe, and Italy the number one in the Mediterranean.
- The highest concentration of supercentenarians in the world is found in Japan, US, France, and Italy.
Based on the above, I think we can conclude that the Italian diet is one of the healthiest in the world, because it’s a Mediterranean diet, and we have proof that eating an Italian diet can help you live a longer life.
Continue reading to find out what’s this proof I am referring to.
People in Italy living over 100
Did you know that there is a place in Sardinia where many locals are over 100? But that’s not all.
There is also a small town in Southern Italy where 1 in 10 locals is 100 years old or order.
This has intrigued many scientists, and resulted in them studying which factors might be contributing to this increased longevity.
Although one is certainly good genes, it is evident that there are other factors contributing to these Italian people living a longer life. Let’s look at the most evident ones.
- These people have worked hard since a very young age, and continue doing so until their last days. So, we can conclude that a more active and less sedentary life is an important factor for living longer.
- These people have eaten a healthy diet most of their lives because they mostly ate the products of their land – mainly vegetables, fruits, legumes, some pasta and bread, some cold water fish, and not too much red meat, dairy and sugars. This is exactly what a healthy Mediterranean diet promotes.
- Most of these Italian supercentenarians drink a little wine every day, but it’s a local high quality artisan wine.
- Their food is cooked and dressed with one main ingredient – a local high-quality extra virgin olive oil like Novello.
- Many of these long living Italians eat two foods that appear to be less known and more commonly available superfoods.
Superfoods for longevity eaten by Italian Supercentenarians
- Fresh rosemary and other herbs
- Leafy greens
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Fresh fish
The first two superfoods in the list above might surprise you. Yet, these two are powerhouses for wellbeing. Rosemary promotes memory and blood circulation, while anchovies are exceptionally high in antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory and anti-aging.
Other important dietary habits of Italians over 100 years old are:
- eating pasta and bread made with higher quality local grains like durum wheat
- swapping refined sugar for local honey
- eating small quantities of meat once a week
- eating sheep’s milk and cheeses instead of cow’s derived products
- eating fruit as dessert, a sweet breakfast or snack
If you want more specific ideas about what Italian food to eat for a healthy breakfast read this article (coming soon), and this one for healthy dinners – 50+ Healthy Italian Dinners You’ll Love.
Tell us, did we answer your question about healthy diets for longevity? If not, leave it in the comments and we’ll try our best to answer it here.