Laughter, regular long walks, and good relationships with grandparents are just a few of the things that might be helping people on Sardinia live longer, healthier lives than many of those in the US or the UK. In fact, according to the Blue Zones, an organization that identifies longevity hotspots around the world, the Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea is home to nearly 10 times as many centenarians per capita than the US. Genetics may also play a role in their longevity, but the Blue Zones organization also maintains that as well as the factors listed above, food choices are incredibly significant.

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Why are people in Sardinia so healthy?

Sardinia, Italy, is just one of the world’s Blue Zones. The others are: Loma Linda, California, Ikaria, Greece, Nicoya, Costa Rica, and Okinawa, Japan. All of these areas have lower rates of chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer, and researchers speculate this has a lot to do with the lifestyle choices people make. They all prioritize community, movement, and stress-free living, and they consume mostly plant-based foods with very little meat and dairy.

In Sardinia, for example, many still adhere to a traditional island lifestyle; they consume small amounts of animal products, like goat’s milk, but they also harvest much of the food they eat by hand. They also drink red wine in *moderate* amounts, which contains antioxidants and helps to reduce stress, and laugh, a lot. “Men in this Blue Zone region are famous for their sardonic sense of humor,” notes the Blue Zones organization. “They gather in the street each afternoon to laugh with and at each other. Laughter reduces stress, which can lower one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Diver SardiniaThe island of Sardinia | Pexels

RELATED: Eat Like a Blue Zoner With These 8 Foods Inspired by the Okinawan Diet

Indeed, research suggests that laughing really is good for your heart. In 2023, one small study from Brazil found that people with coronary artery disease who engaged in laughter therapy by watching comedy programs had lower levels of inflammation and better health.

“Laughter helps the heart because it releases endorphins, which reduce inflammation and help the heart and blood vessels relax. It also reduces the levels of stress hormones, which place strain on the heart.” —Marco Saffi, lead study author and professor of Brazil’s Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre

And while they’re laughing, people in Sardinia also often share healthy meals, packed with nutrient-dense plant-based ingredients, which research confirms are also good for the heart (and many other body parts, too).

How to follow the Sardinian diet: 7 top longevity foods in Sardinia

So, if you want to start living your life the Sardinian way, crack out the jokes, pour a glass of red, and start cooking a meal with some of the top foods loved in this Italian island, listed below.

VegNews.Oliveoilbenefits-2Pexels

1 Olive oil

Across the Mediterranean, olive oil is eaten in spades, and Sardinia is no different. This healthy plant-based oil is packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and antioxidants, and because of this, eating it regularly may reduce the risk of chronic diseases. For example, in 2011, researchers looked at the records of more than 7,600 people aged over 65 and concluded that those who regularly consumed olive oil had a lower risk of stroke. In 2023, further research also linked olive oil with a lower risk of dementia.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Beans Marbella With Salty Roasted Potatoes

VegNews.GazpachoHannah Kaminsky

2 Tomatoes

You can’t go far in Italy without finding a dish packed with tomatoes, so it makes sense that the Sardinians love this bright red fruit, too. But tomatoes are not just delicious, they are also, you guessed it, nutrient-packed. They are rich in vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K, but they are also one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, an antioxidant that is linked with reducing the risk of heart disease, as well as, potentially, prostate, lung, and stomach cancer.
Try it in a recipe: Herby Vegan Roasted Tomato Gazpacho

VegNews.SeedyBreadNorwegian Baking through the Seasons

3 Whole wheat bread

Traditional Sardinian breads are often made with whole wheat flour, which means that, perhaps without thinking about it, Sardinian people are regularly eating plenty of whole grains. Whole grains are a key source of dietary fiber, which is beneficial for gut health, and they’re also a good source of minerals, B vitamins, and antioxidants, too. Regular consumption of whole grains is important for heart health. In fact, in 2016, one review of 10 studies noted that consuming three servings of whole grains a day could lower the risk of heart disease by nearly a quarter.
Try it in a recipe: No-Knead Homemade Vegan Spelt Bread

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4 Barley

For centuries, people on Sardinia have eaten barley, and it is still cultivated on the island today. Barley is another example of a whole grain, and again, is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer due to its vitamin, fiber, and antioxidant intake. According to Cancer Research UK, eating a healthy, balanced diet, rich in whole grains and fiber can reduce the risk of bowel cancer, in particular. “When fiber meets the bacteria in the bowel, the bacteria make something called butyrate,” notes the charity. “Butyrate helps the cells in our bowel to stay healthy, so that tumors are less likely to develop.”
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Miso Mushroom and Barley Stew

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5 Fennel

Fennel is a popular food choice on Sardinia because it grows all over the island, especially in the spring and summer months. This abundantly available plant is also a good source of vitamin C and contains minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. It also contains many powerful antioxidants and plant compounds, which can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Fresh Herb and Fennel Chickpea Frittata

Chickpea JarPexels

6 Chickpeas

If you ever go to Sardinia, it’s a must to try the chickpeas, which are grown in the island’s countryside. Not only are they cooked into many flavorful recipes, but they also offer you a healthy dose of protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and minerals, including 74 percent of the daily value of manganese and 71 percent of the daily value of folate. Research also suggests that chickpeas may help to manage blood sugar, support digestion, and protect against disease. They contain saponins, for example, a plant compound that may help to prevent the development of some cancers.
Try it in a recipe: Lemony Drunken Vegan Chickpea Spaghetti

VegNews.BerryAlmondAmaranthPorridgeJulie Morris

7 Almonds

Sweet treats on Sardinia are usually made with almonds, which is unsurprising, considering the island is one of the top places in Italy for the production of the nut. Almonds have a delicious flavor, especially when baked, and they’re also rich in protein, fiber, monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E. Some research suggests that high vitamin E intake may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Berry and Almond Amaranth Porridge

For more on the Blue Zones, read:
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