My favorite morning show, Today, has been running a special series on living a longer life. By taking advice from the areas of the world that have the longest living people, they came up with a list of foods that will help you live longer. This includes the Mediterranean (hence the healthy Mediterranean diet) where Sardinians have their own list of foods that may help us live longer – including barley, chickpeas, fennel and tomatoes. But even here in the U.S. there are communities known for their healthy lifestyles that result in communities filled with 100-somethings.
Here’s what the Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California eat – foods that are “right out of the Bible” and apparently help them live into their hundreds. (Click here for the full article from Today.)
And diet alone isn’t the only secret to living a long, healthy life. Look back to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, first published in 2008. A lesson he mentioned in the opening of this book is one I always remember, and it reminds me perfectly of my 86 year-old Italian grandmother who hasn’t seemed to age much in my lifetime. As Gladwell explains, a group of Italians settled in America and were later followed by a physician who tried to figure out why these Italians were living so much longer and remaining healthier, despite adapting unhealthy “new world” customs. The story is detailed, but the conclusion is simple:
“What Wolf slowly realized was that the secret of Roseto wasn’t diet or exercise or genes or the region where Roseto was situated. It had to be the Roseto itself…They looked at how the Rosetans visited each other, stopping to chat with each other in Italian on the street, or cooking for each other in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town’s social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. They went to Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in a town of just under 2000 people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the town, that discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures.”
Gladwell summarized that, “You had to appreciate the idea that community — the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with — has a profound effect on who we are. ”
Sometimes, community is just as important to our health. Maybe happiness, along with avocados, will help us live longer…