Mediterranean Diet in Sardinia

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Its history is rich and complex, with evidence of human presence dating back to the Paleolithic era. Over the centuries, Sardinia has been ruled by various civilizations, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Spanish, and Italians. 

Sardinia is incredibly beautiful and distinctive. Traditional festivals, such as the Carnival of Mamoiada and the Feast of Sant’Efisio, are celebrated throughout the year, often featuring elaborate costumes, music, and dancing. The island’s natural beauty and cultural heritage attract tourists from around the world.  

Also, Sardinia is the island of longevity and one of five so-called Longevity Blue Zones in the world where the probability of reaching the age of 90 and over is found. The other four are Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Ikaria (Greece), and the Seventh-day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California. 

Thus, it is quite appropriate to ask the question: what is the reason for such good health and longevity of the Sardinians? Is it the Mediterranean diet? 

Mediterranean Diet in Sardinia

The cuisine of Sardinia, like in most regions of the Mediterranean, is extremely simple and insanely delicious. On any table, you will certainly see Pane Carasau – thin yeast-free cakes, which are also called “music paper” for their light crunch. Pane Carasau can be stored for several months without losing its organoleptic properties. If you put scrambled eggs on this bread and season it with grated sheep’s cheese, you get the traditional Sardinian dish “pane frattau”. In Sardinia, you will also be offered the local Fregola pasta, in the form of small balls, which goes well with beef stew, a roasted pig with spices, mushrooms and vegetables. 

The Sardinian Mediterranean diet is unimaginable without fish. Sards cook fish and seafood perfectly. One of the pearls of the Sardinian culinary tradition is certainly bottarga: dried roe of mullet or tuna. It is also worth trying Culurgiones – ravioli with potatoes and pecorino cheese, Lorighittas pasta (rings of twisted dough strips) with Scarpetta sauce, and Seadas pastries sprinkled with honey with soft cheese inside.  

The Mediterranean Diet of Sardinia is based on the use of fresh local ingredients, including not only fish and seafood but also lamb and wild boar. Yes, it goes against all the rules but one of the striking features of the Sardinian cuisine is the abundance of red meat. One of the island’s most famous dishes is Porceddu, a whole pig roasted on a spit over an open fire.  

One of the important components of the Mediterranean diet and the Mediterranean lifestyle is an active lifestyle and a sense of community. In this regard, you do not need to worry about the Sardinians. The traditional professions and crafts that the inhabitants of the island are engaged in are quite consistent with these conditions and are associated with agriculture.

Sardinia has been called The Land Of Shepherds since ancient times, and these shepherds don’t spend their day sitting in front of a computer. They travel a lot driving herds over mountains and hilly pastures.

Sardinians are known for their hospitality and a strong sense of community. Family and friends play a central role in daily life, and traditional customs, such as the sharing of food and drink, are often used to bring people together. The island’s rugged terrain and long history of self-sufficiency have also contributed to a culture of resilience and self-reliance. 

These people live in communities and large families and lead a quiet and relaxing lifestyle. They are in a hurry to go anywhere and know how to enjoy every little moment of life.

Famine Foods in Sardinian Cuisine 

In the cuisine of Sardinia, you will find some unusual dishes that scientists refer to as the so-called famine foods. This is the food that people consume to survive in times of famine: Bread with clay and acorns, snails, Abbamele, Bottarga, and Pane Caracau.

Sardinia is also home to several types of distinctive cheeses, including Pecorino Sardo, cheese Callu de Cabrettu ripened in goat abomasum, and traditional sheep’s milk cheese Casu Marzu with live cheese fly larvae. 

We will not dwell on the description of this cheese, you can google it if you are interested. Suffice it to mention that its name is translated from the Sardian language as “rotten cheese” and this is not an exaggeration at all. If you want to try this, keep in mind that its production and sale are prohibited by law, and the cheese is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most dangerous cheese in the world. 

As for famine foods, some of these products really saved people from hunger, others helped maintain immunity in order with a rather meager diet and life in starvation, and others are notable for being able to be stored for years at normal room temperature. So, for example, bottarga was invented to stock up on fish caviar during the years of abundance and save this valuable product for more difficult times. 

Here are descriptions of some traditional Sardinian dishes. Abbamele
Abbamele is a product made from honey, pollen, water, and honeycomb. Compared to regular honey, Abbamele has a richer flavor and contains more trace elements and polyphenols.

Abbamele has an intense honey flavor and pairs well with soft cheese and fresh fruit. The handmade production of Abbamele is a very complex craft and Abbamele is a unique and expensive product of the rural culture of Sardinia.  

Pan’Ispeli bread is made from acorns with clay. Acorn contains a large number of tannins, which are useful in small quantities and very toxic when the dose is increased. To reduce the concentration of tannins, acorns are crushed and soaked in water. After that, the acorns are ground into flour, and a certain amount of clay is added there. Clay helps further reduce acorn toxicity and enriches the mixture with valuable minerals.
The people of Sardinia still remember the Pan’Ispeli recipe and bake it during national holidays in memory of the difficult past of their ancestors.    

Сaggiu de Сrabittu 
Caggiu de Сrabittu is a traditional Sardinian cheese made by maturing goat’s milk in goat’s abomasum for 30 to 60 days. It is believed that this method of production makes it possible to enrich the product with a huge amount of mesophilic lactic acid bacteria and special enzymes. Soft Caggiu de Сrabittu cheese spread on Pane Carasau flatbreads is considered the food of Sardinian shepherds who spend the whole day away from home and need nutritious and healthy food that does not need to be cooked. Bottarga        
Bottarga is dried and salted roe of mullet or tuna. This product can be stored for several years and is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Bottarga also contains a huge amount of minerals and vitamins. Bottarga is now one of the popular expensive delicacies but was originally created as a way to stock up on food in case of crop failure and famine. 

We learned about famine foods from this article, thanks to the guys for an interesting and detailed story. You’ll even find the Casu Marzu recipe there. 

The Secret to Their Longevity 

Life expectancy in Sardinia is longer than anywhere else in the world, with approximately 135 people per million celebrating their centenary on the island. The world average is about 75 people per million.  

Many Sardinians attribute their longevity to living off the continent, the good old habit of working, fate, and, of course, the local red wine, rich in polyphenols with numerous health benefits. 

While scientists are collecting DNA samples from the inhabitants of different areas of the island to understand the reason for their longevity, the locals just shrug their shoulders and say: “It’s all because of the red wine that we drink here.” 

Wine production is an important part of Sardinian culture and economy. The island is home to several indigenous grape varieties, including Cannonau, Vermentino, and Carignano. Sardinian wines are known for their bold flavors and tannic structure, with some of the most renowned producers,  located in the regions of Gallura, Sulcis, and the Ogliastra. 

Sure, wine is a great thing, but researchers studying centenarians in the remote mountainous regions of Sardinia have a different explanation. 

Researchers believe it’s all about genetics. This theory is supported by data that most centenarians in the towns of Sardinia are relatives.

Sardinians believe that hard work and a healthy lifestyle is the key to their longevity, and this is really difficult. disagree. These people lead the same way of life as their ancestors: they work hard and eat only natural products grown by themselves. In general, the Mediterranean diet and a healthy lifestyle. 

Well, about a healthy diet, we already understood everything. The Mediterranean diet pyramid in Sardinia looks a little special: spit-roasted pig and lamb are located at the very base of it. 

Scientists are studying stomach bacteria and intestinal flora to find a connection between the Mediterranean diet of Sardinians and their longevity while centenarians always ready to share their wise advice for a long, happy, and healthy life.

“Live your own life, work, be active and drink some wine every day. But only a little, do not overdrink!” they say. 

Well, we probably won’t. Cheers!  

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