This year, the Fun Food Feed is featuring longevity Blue Zones (BZ) from around the world, and dishes inspired by them.
Spring’s featured longevity Blue Zone is Sardinia, Italy.
A Blue Zone is a “small, homogenous geographical area where the population shares the same lifestyle and environment and its exceptional longevity has been scientifically proven.”
National Geographic researchers originally identified five Blue Zones: first Sardinia Italy, next Okinawa Japan, and the Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda California, then the Nicoya Peninsula of Coast Rica, and Icaria, Greece.
Nine shared lifestyle habits were found in all five populations:
- Plant-Based Diet with legumes as a staple and low to no meat
- Moderate Calorie Intake, stopping eating when feel 80% full
- Moderate Alcohol of 1-2 glasses per evening (except Adventists, who abstain)
- Moving Naturally, growing gardens, walking to the store, house and yard work by hand
- Life Purpose
- Stress Reduction, with meditation, prayer, naps and socializing
- Belonging to a positive community, often faith-based
- Family, with members committed to helping each other
- Social Circle of several supportive members with healthy behaviors
These populations with a high proportion of centenarians have not lasted indefinitely, depending on the above factors being maintained.
BLUE ZONE – SARDINIA, ITALY
A common greeting on the island of Sardinia, Italy is a kent’ annos, meaning “may you live to be 100.”
Sardinian Blue Zone centenarians occupy the rocky highland slopes of the Supramonte mountains. The longest living here are the men, who spend most days shepherding their flocks of slender sheep and goats over rugged hills of wild grasses and herbs.
One might guess that these pastoral roots would make the cornerstone of their diet meat, but families typically simply milk the animals and make pecorino cheese, and trade the animals for grain. Meat is reserved for holidays, and the lard used sparingly for cooking, along with olive oil.
Daily fare for a traditional Sardinian centenarian family is durum wheat and barley bread and sourdough, fava and garbanzo beans, and whatever is ripe in the garden, including eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, fennel, onions and potatoes. Their grass-fed pecorino and chopped almonds are common condiments.
These plant-based foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, carbohydrate, protein, phytonutrients and prebiotic fiber.
Blue Zone Video:
Sardinian Blue Zone Diet Video:
This Spring’s Featured Recipe is for Centenarian-Style Eggplant Flatbread. What better way to bring Sardinia’s traditional foods together into one dish! And what better way to bring friends and family together than with good food.
If time is of the essence, substitute pre-made refrigerated whole grain pizza dough, slices of sourdough bread or english muffins, or your favorite flatbread for our overnight flatbread dough below.
Vegetables can be finely diced and mixed with tomato sauce before topping pizza, for a more “classic” look and for the more reluctant vegetable eater.
Centenarian-Style Eggplant Flatbread
Flatbread Rising Time: Overnight or ~18 hours
Preparation Time: ~60 minutes
Yield: ~4 – 8 servings
1 1/2 cup (350g) water
3 cups whole wheat (330g) and/or barley flour (250g)
1/4 teaspoon (3g) yeast or 1/2 cup (120ml) 1:1 sourdough starter
(if using starter, reduce water by 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon (6g) salt
1 eggplant (500g)
1 zucchini (120g)
1 fennel bulb (100g)
1 onion (120g)
peeled cloves of 1 head garlic (50g)
1/2 cup canned/cooked chickpeas (100g dry, 75g cooked)
reserved chickpea aquafaba from can/cooking water reduced until egg white consistency
1 jar tomato sauce (500g)
Optional toppings: Pesto (recipe below), fresh basil leaves, Kite Hill Cream Cheese-style Almond Spread or chopped almonds
large baking dish
pizza pan or baking sheet
1.Mix together Flatbread ingredients (water, flour, yeast/starter, salt) in bowl. Cover with damp cloth and let rise overnight or ~18 hours.
2. Roll dough to 5mm thickness and place on lightly oiled baking sheet. Let rise on preheating oven range as prepare vegetables.
3. Cut vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, fennel, onion) into bite-sized pieces.
4. Toss vegetables in garbanzo-aquafaba (or a little high-heat oil if preferred), to seal in moisture while baking.
5. Arrange vegetables, whole garlic cloves and chickpeas in single layer on lightly-oiled or SilPat-mat-lined baking sheet.
6. Bake at ~400F until vegetables browned on one side. Flip vegetables. Continue baking until vegetables soft, ~20 minutes.
7. Top flatbread dough with tomato sauce and decorative arrangement of vegetables and garbanzos. Dapple with optional almond spread or chopped almonds.
8. Bake at ~400F (205°C) until crust golden.
9. Decorate with optional Pesto and/or fresh basil leaves.
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Yield: ~1/2 cup (120ml)
4 ounces (110g, 1 large box or about 2 cups) fresh basil, stems removed
1 small handful (1 – 2 Tablespoons (15ml – 30ml)) of almonds, pistachios or macadamias
1 good glug (1 – 3 Tablespoons (15ml – 45ml)) of high-quality extra virgin olive oil (preferably certified by the California Olive Oil Council), or avocado and/or raw tree nut butter
1 generous sprinkle (1 – 2 Tablespoons (5ml – 10ml)) of nutritional yeast or freshly grated pecorino
1 to 4 cloves (3g – 10g) garlic to taste
fresh zest & juice of a lemon to taste
salt & pepper to taste
Blender or food processor
1.Blend ingredients until a smooth, fine-grained texture, scraping down sides with rubber spatula as needed.
2. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and living like the world’s healthiest people. National Geographic Books, 2015.
Pes, Giovanni Mario, et al. “Male longevity in Sardinia, a review of historical sources supporting a causal link with dietary factors.” European journal of clinical nutrition 69.4 (2015): 411.
Poulain, Michel, et al. “Identification of a geographic area characterized by extreme longevity in the Sardinia island: the AKEA study.” Experimental gerontology 39.9 (2004): 1423-1429.