Italy tops a ranking of the world’s healthiest countries, and diet may play a central role.
The Bloomberg Global Health Index ranks Italy top of 163 countries, followed by Iceland, Switzerland, Singapore and Australia.
While Italian babies can expect to live into their eighties...
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While Italy is among the most developed countries, its economic growth has stagnated for decades, almost 40 percent of its younger people are out of jobs and it has one of the world’s highest debt loads relative to the size of its economy. Even considering how the economic pressure must filter down to each citizen, Italians are still far better shape than Americans, Canadians and the British populations, who all suffer from higher blood pressure, high cholesterol and mental health issues.
Besides the Mediterranean diet helping to keep Italians healthy, the rest of their lifestyle also contributes. Hilly towns require people of any age to walk and get lots of exercise doing daily tasks--up stairs and inclined streets. Many older homes in villages and in the countryside are on multiple levels, and older city apartments rarely have elevators, causing some to walk up and down 4-6 flights of stairs.
The varied environment in Italy draws people to the outdoors. Young people in Italy are really into outdoor activities, beyond soccer there is cycling, skiing, kayaking, trekking, swimming and much more. Even older people are active--even bocce can give a decent workout, with thousands of serious bocce associations around the country.
Ties to family traditions also helps, with younger people still joining in on the preparations and traditional dances for their festivals, carnivals, and sagre. Families also have obligations to tending olive trees, almond and other nut trees, growing tomatoes (and making and bottling many gallons of pomidori pilati), and other crops--often these are large family events--harvest times brings lots of work and activity. And in pretty much every village and town in Italy--every night after dinner--families, friends and neighbors join each other taking long walks in the main piazza, viale or promenade, called the passeggiatta. A baby born in Italy might easily live into their eighties, with many communities having a larger than expected part of their population over 100 years old. (Read more about this HERE).
Want another reason? As it turns out, Italy--with its socialized medical system--has “an excess of doctors,” said Tom Kenyon, a physician and CEO of global relief organization Project Hope. And of course, there is the Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Many desserts even contain the magical, golden oil! In general, Italians eat much more fresh produce, fish and meals made from scratch in their diet. They also tend to eat less in the mornings (espresso and a sweet pastry), a larger lunch with a nap during their 2-3 hours riposo, and a much smaller dinner. Even gelato is healthier than American style, cream based ice cream.
In the end, perhaps Italy itself--the landscape, the colors, the beautiful architecture, the its flowers and trees, the art and the history all around people living there--help lower stress and afford a true happy and content lifestyle that we as Americans might be lacking. Living within a the beautiful painting that is Italia... Wow... what a dream it must be.
Learn to live like and Italian, and perhaps you too can live to be 100--or more!