The se­crets of liv­ing a long life

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Food - Clodagh Finn

SO, what is the se­cret of longevity? If any­one should know it’s the world’s old­est fam­ily, an hon­our be­stowed on Ir­ish fam­ily the Don­nellys, who were named the old­est liv­ing fam­ily on earth by the Guin­ness Book of Records ear­lier this year.

The 13 Ar­magh sib­lings have a com­bined age of 1,075, a record-break­ing achieve­ment that has earned them at­ten­tion from as far away as New Zealand and Amer­ica.

“I’m a world­wide star,” the youngest of the bunch, Leo, 72, says, with a mis­chievous­ness that shows his pos­i­tive out­look on life.

His broth­ers and sis­ters have the same sort of down-to-earth at­ti­tude, although it’s hard to get them all in the one place at the same time. How­ever, they did all gather at their child­hood fam­ily home at Col­lege­lands in Moy, Dun­gan­non on the Ar­magh/Ty­rone border, to mark their en­try into this year’s Guin­ness Book of Records.

And for the record, here is the impressive age-de­fy­ing line-up: Sean, 93, Mau­reen, 92, Eileen, 90, Peter, 87, Mairead, 86, Rose, 85, Tony, 83, Terry, 81, Sea­mus, 80, Brian, 76, Kath­leen, 75, Colm, 74, and Leo, 72.

Sadly, Austin, Leo’s twin, the one who first thought the fam­ily might be record­break­ers, died in an ac­ci­dent in 2015. Two other sib­lings have also passed away. Michael died in a car crash in 1975 and Oliver died of cancer, aged 64.

Leo, who still lives in the fam­ily home, says he is sorry that Austin wasn’t there to see the fam­ily gain recog­ni­tion but says he’s de­lighted to be able to ad­ver­tise the ben­e­fits of sim­ple, nat­u­ral liv­ing.

And top of that list of sim­ple good­ness is por­ridge.

The fam­ily has teamed up with Flava­han’s for Na­tional Por­ridge Week, which runs all of this week, to high­light the ben­e­fits of the hum­ble oat.

Leo is a big fan and says he en­joys por­ridge with a dol­lop of Vic­to­rian plum jam. “I make my own bread and jam,” he says.

Por­ridge was al­ways a sta­ple in the Don­nelly house­hold and Leo’s fa­ther, Peter, started and fin­ished his day with a bowl.

Oats were an im­por­tant part of the fam­ily’s diet, but the fact that the sib­lings were raised on or­ganic, pes­ti­cide-free farm pro­duce played a huge role in their health and longevity, they be­lieve.

Peter and Ellen Don­nelly started farm­ing 20 acres but later bought a 100-acre farm where they grew a wide range of pro­duce — pota­toes, ap­ples, sprouts, straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries and, in green­houses, let­tuce, toma­toes and cu­cum­bers.

The fam­ily ex­ported pota­toes and ap­ples to Bri­tain. Their ap­ples were used by ci­der­mak­ers and also in Mr Ki­pling’s pies.

“We also had pure-bred Rhode Is­land chick­ens and pigs. We butchered a pig and smoked and salted it and kept it in a big tea chest — that was our food for the win­ter.”

There was no al­co­hol or smok­ing ei­ther. “Just pil­low fights and plenty of ex­er­cise,” says Leo.

But get­ting back to por­ridge, it ticks all the right boxes as a health food, ac­cord­ing to nu­tri­tion­ist Nuala Collins. “If you could de­sign a food that was ex­tremely healthy you could not im­prove on oats, which we com­monly con­sume as por­ridge.”

Here are six rea­sons why oats are con­sid­ered a su­per food:

Por­ridge is 100% nat­u­ral with no added sugar, salt or ad­di­tives and it’s nat­u­rally low in calo­ries.

It has a low glycemic in­dex (GI) and re­search has found that peo­ple who eat foods with a low GI are less likely to binge on sug­ary snacks.

It is high in com­plex car­bo­hy­drates and sol­u­ble fi­bre, so releases en­ergy slowly. A bowl of por­ridge at break­fast should pro­vide all the en­ergy you need un­til lunchtime.

Por­ridge can help lower choles­terol. The type of fi­bre con­tained in oats, beta-glu­can, is an ac­tive in­gre­di­ent that helps de­crease LDL (low-den­sity lipopro­tein, or harm­ful choles­terol).

Oats con­tain phy­to­chem­i­cals, nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring chem­i­cals in plants, as well as the an­tiox­i­dant, flavonoid, both of which, ac­cord­ing to nu­mer­ous stud­ies, help pre­vent heart dis­ease and cancer.

Peo­ple who suf­fer from Type 2 di­a­betes are en­cour­aged to in­clude por­ridge in their daily di­ets as it can help con­trol and sta­bilise blood-sugar lev­els.

Check out tasty por­ridge recipes on­line

Pic­ture: Marc O’Sullivan

BOWLED OVER: The Don­nellys — Leo, 72, Peter, 87, Mau­reen, 92, and Brian, 76 — at the launch of Na­tional Por­ridge Week. They were named the old­est liv­ing fam­ily on earth by the Guin­ness Book

of Records ear­lier this year.

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