In an age of fad diets and month-dicated fasts, Matt Preston offers his new Mediterranean diet, inspired by the longest-living people on earth
The new, new Mediterranean diet.
AS WE stand on the doorstep of febfast, never before have we found ourselves surrounded by more self-appointed health gurus, lifestyle bloggers and wellness sites promising us a longer, better life if we just follow their rules. Even febfast, once dedicated to booze, has now turned its glare to diet, too.
Although I should note that the word ‘diet’ is now dead, to be replaced with more positive words like ‘health’ or ‘wellness’ – ‘diet’ now implies something old-fashioned and deprivational that your auntie did back when Barnaby Joyce was young and good-looking. In fact, it seems like every kooky new food religion has dragooned the word ‘healthy’ into supporting even their most outlandish proclamations.
Not wanting to be left behind, I have devised the perfect new cash-in diet book healthy lifestyle guide for 2018. We all know that a Mediterranean diet built around lots of veg, fish, pulses and olive oil is claimed to help you live longer, but my new ‘wellness life map’™ focuses in on the Greek island in the Med whose inhabitants live longest.
Ikaria, a 10-hour ferry ride from Athens and just 50 kilometres off the coast of Turkey, is known as the island where people “forget to die”. Studies have shown Icarians live, on average, 10 years longer than people in the rest of Europe and America, and in good health – and around one in three Icarians lives into their 90s.
Much has been written about the Icarian diet of raw goat’s milk; olives; wild greens like fennel and dandelion leaves; whole grains and pulses like lentils, chickpeas and beans; and a little fish. Sourdough bread, potatoes, a little goat or chicken, and a lot of olive oil and antioxidant-rich wine also feature. That pretty much sounds like how many of us eat in Australia now – just with fewer Magnums, Vegemite, and sauceslathered sausages and pies. What hasn’t had as much focus is the impact of the many other life factors that go alongside the Icarian diet.
After an extensive period of intensive research, I present five (and three more online) other vital factors that might account for the longevity of the Icarians, besides the food.
MOVE SLOW, EAT SLOW
Forget just mindful eating, the whole pace of life on Ikaria is slow and mindful. They get up late, take lots of naps and don’t wear watches. Having personally mastered all three, I have now increased my life expectancy to 91.
WHEN YOU ‘DO’, DO IT YOURSELF
Icarians tend to catch their own fish, grow and press their own olives, and kill their own goats or chickens. The latter is enough to put most of us off our dinner, thus saving a few handy calories.
This DIY life also keeps them active – chasing that pot-destined livestock as it tries to escape over the island’s mountainous terrain – rather than just driving down the shops for a kilo of chook thighs. Those thighs find it hard to run away, as they never have a dollar handy to unlock the shopping trolley they need to scoot off in.
LIVE NEAR GOATS
Could living with those goats be more of a factor to long life than we imagine? South Australians achieve an enviable life expectancy of 80.4 years for men and 84.5 for women. Is it mere coincidence that theirs is the state with the highest concentration of feral goats? There are an estimated 350,000 goats in the Flinders Ranges and Mid North alone! I think the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Global Food and Resources needs to look into this as a matter of national importance, and provide advice on whether expansive goat parks should be set up around every Australian city.
DANCE INTO OLD AGE
Icarians are fond of a bit of a boogie, Zorba-style, after dinner, and they have several dozen festivals from January to November – more than almost any other island in the Aegean – where dancing is very much part of the fun. This also suggests that ‘community’, as well as dancing, is a big part of their secret to staying alive longer.
SPEND TIME WITH SCANDINAVIANS
The Greek islands are home to an army of ’em over summer, so could they be part of the Icarians’ secret to long life?
Certainly, research by the University of Athens medical school found that 80 per cent of those long-living Icarian men aged between 65 and 100 claimed to still have sexual relations on a regular basis, although I’m assuming this is with their hot Icarian wives.
When I suggested to the woman I love that – solely in the interest of scientific research – we should invite some young Danish backpackers to live with us for the summer to see if it improved our longevity, she informed me this would, in fact, dramatically shorten my lifespan; down to a mere matter of minutes.