What is the food life like in Kochi

Do you want to live longer Try these tips and recipes for healthy eating from Ikaria

Chances are you've never heard of Ikaria, a small, isolated island in the Aegean Sea. It is home to one of the healthiest, longest-lived populations in the world, which gave it one of the five "Blue Zones" in Dan Buettner's book, Blue Zones: Lessons on Longer From the People Who Lived. The island's laid-back lifestyle is at least partially to blame, but there is reason to believe that the diet deserves credit too.

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In “Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Die,” Diane Kochilas explores the foods and traditions that helped make Icarians so strikingly healthy. She also shares her recipes and easy-to-follow advice for adopting some healthy Ikarian habits. Kochilas, a cookbook author and collaborating chef in New York's Molyvos, has roots in Ikaria and spends part of each year on the remote island. Here Kochilas offers five healthy eating tips as well as three simple, nutritious recipes - spring leaf salad; Sweet potato and arugula salad; and lentil salad - from her book.

Diane Kochilas ‘healthy eating tips

  1. Eat more greens. Historically, Ikaria was a poor and isolated island that was largely self-sufficient. People learned to harvest and cook what was around them, especially the lush wild plants that are full of food that were believed to have played a significant role in the health and longevity of the population. With this in mind, Kochilas urges us to go to the farmers market or grow our own vegetables. Getting even more greens in the supermarket is a step in the right direction. And if you need inspiration to enjoy your greens, check out Kochilas' cooking recipes below.
  2. Cook with olive oil.“Greeks consume more olive oil than anyone else in the world,” says Kochilas. And there is a good reason for that: in addition to its great taste and incredible versatility, olive oil also provides monounsaturated fats, antioxidants such as vitamin E, and it has anti-inflammatory effects. Kochilas also believes that cooking vegetables in olive oil helps sanitize natural sugars, making them sweeter, and making them all the more enjoyable.
  3. Eat little to no processed food.Discouraging people from consuming processed foods is not new, but the Ikarian diet offers another argument against it. As an isolated island, Ikaria has long been immune to modern dining trends and people relied almost exclusively on what they could grow and harvest locally. Even now, with processed foods making their way into Ikaria, eating local, fresh foods is still a part of the culture, Kochilas says. She suggests that in addition to avoiding sugar, fat, and salt in processed foods, Ikarians also benefit from the incredible diet in fresh, local ingredients.
  4. Enjoy beans and legumes. While Icarians traditionally don't eat as much animal protein as beef or chicken, they do consume a lot of beans and legumes, many of which are grown on the island. Beans, including chickpeas and black-eyed peas, and lentils, a type of pulse, are low-fat, cholesterol-free sources of protein and provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also versatile, easy to cook, inexpensive, and filling, qualities that have long appealed to the Ikarian population and are likely to win you too. If you are new to beans and legumes, check out Kochila's recipe for lentil salad with fennel, onions and lots of herbs (see below).
  5. Avoid excess. In addition to eating or not eating certain foods, Kochilas says that the Ikarian diet is really about moderation. This may be due to the fact that the island was so isolated and poor that the population had very little to sustain. In particular, this meant that less healthy foods like meat and sugar were restricted to special occasions. Kochilas does not say to eliminate these foods, but rather that we treat everything we eat with "nothing in excess".

Related: Wine, Beans and Family: Sardinia's 100 Secrets to Living

3 healthy salad recipes from Ikaria

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Classic spring lettuce salad

Diane Kochilas

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Lentil salad with fennel, onions and lots of herbs

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Sweet potato and arugula salad

Diane Kochilas