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

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - @mattscra­vat @Mattscra­vat You’ll find no fad di­ets like this, but plenty of Mediter­ranean recipes, at de­li­

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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