By Sheila Anthony
Whether you’re an adherent to the Blue Zone diet or Dr. Valter Longo’s approach to longevity by mimicking fasting, you already know the point isn’t just to have a long life, but to have a healthy long life. Here are 4 longevity diet recipes that celebrate healthy living, are incredibly delicious, and don’t give a flip about calorie counts because they’re that good for you.
University of Southern California gerontology professor and researcher Dr. Valter Longo has done fascinating work on aging and age-related diseases. He’s also put together a great website stocked with tasty and easy-to-make recipes that are all about a long, healthy life. Here’s our slightly altered version of his Chickpeas and Spelt.
Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are well known. Spelt, however, might be a little more obscure, but this ancient grain is a more robust and nutritious relative of modern wheat.
Chickpeas and Spelt
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- Filtered water for soaking and cooking
- ¾ cup uncooked spelt (also known as Dinkel wheat or hulled wheat)
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 rib of celery, chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Soak the chickpeas at least 8 hours or overnight in enough filtered water to cover them by 2 to 3 inches.
- The day of recipe making, soak the spelt for a couple of hours in enough filtered water to cover by 1 to 2 inches.
- Drain the chickpeas, then place in a pot with filtered water and bring to a boil. Cook chickpeas at a slow boil until slightly tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Drain chickpeas, saving 2 quarts of the cooking water.
- In a large saucepan, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using medium heat, sauté chopped onion, carrot, and celery until onion is translucent. Add drained chickpeas, drained spelt, and 2 quarts of chickpea cooking water. Bring to boil, then lower heat immediately, letting mixture simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a grinding or two of black pepper before serving.
Non-vegan version: Replace half of filtered water for cooking chickpeas with organic chicken bone broth or stock.
The Greek island of Ikaria is one of the 5 famous Blue Zones. One in three Ikarians lives into their 90s, healthy, physically active and with an active sex life. They also have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease, and almost no dementia.
If moving to Ikaria is an impractical option, try our version of this delicious sweet potato recipe from Greek cuisine expert Diane Kochilas, who hails from Ikaria, herself.
Greek Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Arugula
- 1½ pounds sweet potatoes
- 1 large red onion or 1 bunch of scallions, trimmed
- 2 bunches of fresh arugula, trimmed
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat’s milk cheese (optional)
- Wash and scrub sweet potatoes, then cut into 1½” chunks. Toss with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Spread out on a cookie sheet or roasting pan and roast in a preheated 450°F oven until golden brown and slightly al dente when pierced with a fork. Be sure to stir potatoes and rotate pan at least once during cooking. Transfer potatoes to a serving bowl and let cool.
- Peel, quarter, and thinly slice the red onion. If using scallions, cut into thin rounds.
- Coarsely chop the arugula.
- Place the arugula and onions or scallions in the bowl with the sweet potatoes. In a separate bowl whisk together vinegar and olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt. Add dressing to potatoes and gently mix. If desired, add the crumbled feta or goat’s milk cheese to salad and serve immediately.
From the kitchen of bluezones.com controller Souraya Farhat, this tasty, comforting, and vegan soup is loaded with lentils and greens, absolute must-haves for any Blue Zone kitchen.
Lebanese-Style Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Lemon
- 3 cups red lentils (substitute with brown lentils if red lentils are unavailable)
- 12 cups filtered cold water
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 2 small Yukon gold potatoes, diced
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 4 cups Swiss chard, chopped
- 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper
- Place lentils in a large pot and add filtered water. Bring the lentils to a slow-roiling simmer.
- While lentils are simmering, in a pan, sauté onion until pink, about 5 minutes. Add chopped Swiss chard and sauté together until chard is wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- After lentils have cooked about 8 to 10 minutes, add onion and chard mixture, along with diced potatoes and zucchini to simmering water.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook until potatoes and lentils are completely cooked, about 12 minutes.
- Add the chopped cilantro. Stir and cook about 5 minutes.
- Add lemon juice and cumin just before serving.
This dessert is another fabulous recipe from the kitchen of Diane Kochilas. For this tenderly moist lemon pound cake, she replaced traditional butter with olive oil. Here’s our slightly tweaked version.
Whole Wheat Lemon Pound Cake with Olive Oil and Greek Yogurt
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- ½ cup semolina flour
- ½ cup all-purpose white flour
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup Greek-style yogurt
- ½ cup apricot jam or orange marmalade whisked with ¼ cup filtered water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract (substitute with 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, if preferred)
- Preheat oven to 325°F. In a standing mixer bowl and using a low speed, combine all dry ingredients.
- Add olive oil, eggs, yogurt, watered down jam or marmalade, and vanilla and lemon extracts to the dry ingredients. Using the whisk attachment, mix all the ingredients together on medium speed for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until combined. Do not overmix.
- Pour batter into a nonstick 12” loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until golden and set. A toothpick inserted in the center should have a light crumb clinging to it but no batter. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in loaf pan before inverting onto a plate for serving.
The quality of the water you cook with is as important as the quality of the water you drink. Beans and pasta, for instance, absorb the water (and everything in that water) you soak or cook them in. You’ll get great-tasting purified water for drinking and cooking with the Brio Amphora Under Sink Filtration System. Not only does it have a reverse osmosis filtration system that meticulously intercepts the most harmful water contaminants, but it comes with a pitcher that automatically refills, so you never have to wait for filtered water, which is a lifesaver in a busy kitchen.
Hopefully these recipes will inspire you to create your own longevity Blue Zone wherever you live!