What are the secrets of the world’s longest living cultures?

Have you ever wondered why certain populations live longer, happier, healthier lives? With the heightened incidence of chronic disease and illness within Australia, the topic of longevity is a hot one.

What is it about certain countries that correlate to lower rates of illness, better health and a longer lifespan, and what can we learn from these populations, to better our own health? We looked at some of the world’s healthiest countries and discovered some common (and interesting) traits:

Japan: rice is nice

Evidence shows that Japan is one of the healthiest countries in the world, with one of the longest lifespans. Their greater intake of white rice reduces their need for wheat and gluten (which have been shown to be problematic in other parts of the world). Seafood – particularly raw fish – ups their anti-inflammatory omega 3 quota, while fermented foods such as soy, natto, and miso, all help to promote healthy gut flora. The Japanese regularly drink green tea, which boasts a number of antioxidant compounds.

France: for the love of cheese

Renowned for their love of bread and cheese, the French diet has long captivated widespread interest. There is more focus on quality foods – wholesome, unmodified, superior choices for every meal – full-fat, natural dairy being one prominent example. The French lead a more active lifestyle, with walking and incidental exercise making up their daily routines. The French also have a healthy relationship with food – they view their meals with a positive and sensible attitude, and really enjoy what they eat.

Italy: family ties

This ‘Mediterranean’ style of eating is a definite factor in the longevity of the Italians. One of the main factors contributing to their health is their antioxidant intake, through fruits, vegetables and olive oil. Much like the French, they use quality ingredients and enjoy full-fat, natural foods. The way the Italians approach mealtimes is another important factor: every meal is a celebration! Food is prepared with care, thought and love, and eaten in a family setting; slowly, appreciatively and enjoyably.

So how can we apply these to better our own health? According to Blue Zones, a lot can be learned from specific regions boasting longer lifespans within these countries. Within Okinawa, Japan, it seems that increasing our intake of omega-3 through seafood and grass-fed meat is one example, as well as regularly including fermented foods into our diets. Blue Zones also identified Sardinia, within Italy, as another region of abundant health. Much like the French, these Italians use quality ingredients, in their natural, unmodified state. We can also slow down and enjoy our food much like the Europeans do – celebrating our meals in the company of friends and family, eating with care rather than haste, and really appreciating the meal in front of us!

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