Several years ago Dan Buettner published a book called Blue Zones. Blue Zones contain the most dense populations of centenarians on the planet. At the time the book was published there were four areas: Loma Linda, Southern California in a Seventh Day Adventist community, Nicoya, Costa Rica, Okinawa, Japan and Sardinia, Italy. I have shared much of the information in previous blogs. You can also learn more at www.bluezones.com.
Last week I was on a long ride from Chattanooga to Savannah. I was listening to NPR, and another blue zone has been found in Italy. It is Italy's second blue zone, which I must point out as a proud Italo-American! The new location is Acciaroli, Italy which is on the western coast of Italy in the region of Campania near Naples. http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-are-investigating-why-people-in-this-tiny-italian-town-keep-living-to-100
It may be the most amazing blue zone yet. With a population of just 2000 there are 300 centenarians - 15% of the population! The rest of the world is at about .2%. Not only is this statistically amazing, but it gets even more so - 20% of the centenarians are super-centenarians living to age 110+! They are living very long lives with incredibly low rates of heart disease and Alzheimer's.
Why is this happening??? Scientists are beginning the investigation. The initial guess is a combination of genes and diet. The people in this area are not doing any intentional exercise other than walking, climbing hills and steps, and tending gardens.
The Acciarolians are eating the famed Mediterranean diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, grass fed dairy, wine and olive oil, but the scientists are uniquely interested in two ingredients that they consume almost daily at every lunch and dinner - anchovies and rosemary.
Anchovies because of their small size are mercury free, high in protein, and rich in omega 3 fatty acids which is an anti-inflammatory. Rosemary which is rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin B is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Inflammation is the precursor to disease.
Anchovies can be used in a lot of ways. Many Italians use them as the salt for salad dressing. Put 5-6 anchovy fillets in a blender with a 3:1 ratio of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and cracked pepper. Taste the dressing and if you want it a bit more salty add some more anchovies. Anchovies can be used in creating pasta sauces. Place several anchovies in a pan with just a bit of liquid. Warm them up and break them apart with a fork then add diced eggplant, a clove of garlic and olive oil - lightly saute. Then add San Marzano tomatoes and serve with spaghetti. A panino with anchovies, fresh mozzarella, and roasted zucchini, peppers and eggplant. You can find many more recipes on the internet.
Italians most often use rosemary when they are roasting vegetables and meat. I most commonly remember my Nonna Liliana using rosemary with roasted potatoes and whole roasted chicken.
As much as one's eating choices are a factor, don't forget the afternoon siesta and a gelato in the square with friends is part of the formula as well!