Eating Beans is One Reason Behind Ikarians Living Up To 100

Image Credit: The Philadelphia Tribune

Greek American chef Diane Kochilas offers the blueprint to the people who want a long and healthy life. Proving a roadmap in the Ikaria Way, she has included aspects of the Mediterranean island’s “Blue Zone” diet. Ikaria is a small Greek island in the eastern Aegean which has a much lower rate of chronic diseases than other places with its more than 8,000 full-time residents having some of the longest life expectancies in the world. One-third of the island’s population lives past 90 years of age. A variety of factors like exercise, and strong social and family ties are integrated into their daily lives. The habit of frequent napping is said to be the reason behind their long and healthy life.

However, another contributing factor is what they eat. Following the Mediterranean diet, the Ikarian diet also includes a lot of fiber, healthy fats, and nutrient-rich whole foods. Most of which is plant-based and features nuts, potatoes, vegetables, seeds, legumes, grains, and olive oil is their main source of good fat. According to their diet, Yogurt and cheese, fish, poultry, and red wine are consumed in moderation. Red meat is not completely eliminated, its consumption is limited to just a few times per month. It has been shown that eating like this lowers risk factors for health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Greek American chef Diane Kochilas published a new cookbook, The Ikaria Way where she offers a “roadmap” for people who are willing to incorporate aspects of this diet into their lifestyles. This is inspired by how residents eat in Ikaria. For the chef, this book is focused on two issues: how to be good to your body “without being mean to your mind”, and how to cook “in the spirit of a relaxed, healing kind of island where the tempo of life is slow and easy and where people connect through food around a table”. “I think that one of the things that always surprises me is just the level of stress that people accept,” she says. “In the US, stress is so detrimental, and most of it is in our own heads and thought patterns.” Her cookbook aims to make people aware and teach them how to become more mindful of how they take care of themselves. Kochilas also aims to make people understand that food is also love.

Kochilas’ family is originally from Ikaria where she runs a cooking school. This is also where the chef lives half of the year. It was at one of her weeklong classes that she was inspired by the 100 plant-based recipes that are now included in her new cookbook. She says, “I had two guests from Montana who stood in bewilderment at the kitchen counter on the third day of the class and confessed that they not only ate meat three times a day back home, but they also never imagined that plant-based cooking, which is mostly – but not all of – what we do during our week together on the island, could be so satisfying, varied and real.”


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