May you live to be a 100
This is a standard greeting for the Symiots who live on an unspoilt island in Greece. These locals are well toned and vigorous and men in their seventies and eighties are flirting with fit and appealing women who have beautiful skin and hair! People in their nineties are still harvesting their herbs from the hillsides and these are laid out in bunches along with ropes of garlic along the seafront.
Others are looking after their herds of animals, making yoghurt and gardening. The total population is around 2,700 with many centenarians amongst them.
Sally Beare wrote The Live-longer Die’ finding these remarkable inhabitants who have created a clean and litter free environment from Symi ‘home of truly ancient Greeks’.
An engaging sight is the flotilla of brightly coloured fishing boats which leaves the harbour to find the day’s catch consisting of squid, lobster, huge sardines, herrings, salmon and prawns - all swimming in clear blue water. The inhabitants exist on a fishy Mediterranean diet. The Essential Fatty Acids derived from oily fish gives oodles of omega 3 as they are consumed 2-3 times a week sautéed in olive oil, roasted in the oven or used in succulent soups. I am drooling at the thought!
Food for Thought
Their food is deliciously fulfilling consisting of olive oil, fish, their own home made tomato sauces, goat’s cheeses, a little meat and varying vegetables, salads and wine. They use extra-virgin olive oil with everything - drizzled onto cooked vegetables, homemade bread is dipped into it (a far more nutritious way of lubricating bread than spreading something over it), vegetables cooked in it. Olive oil has antifungal properties and thus helps to keep the gut flora friendly. Symiots drink a neat spoonful of olive oil before they embark upon a celebratory evening!
Vegetables are the main part of any meal and their mouth-watering dishes are prepared with olive oil, lemon, herbs and garlic. Artichokes, green beans, stuffed vine leaves, salads and potatoes are all staple forms of their diet. The abundance of fresh succulent fruit which can consist of home grown figs, pomegranates and grapes are supplemented with oranges, apples, pears and peaches which arrive from neighbouring islands. Most Symiots eat double the five portions of fruit and veg recommended to us and thus they eat sound quantities of health promoting fibre.
Their intake of tomatoes is high enabling them to benefit from the best source of lycopene in which longevity scientists are very interested. Similarly they eat garlic with everything—infusing meat and fish with its sweet, uplifting flavour. Garlic has wonderful properties and is known to help lower blood pressure and improve circulation. It has antiviral and antibiotic properties and even helps the brain. Use it raw or cook it gently so that it can glide through the digestive tract clearing up the debris. Symiots use capers including the stalk and leaves following their ancient belief that capers help stomach ailments, cure liver problems, prevent rheumatism and promote longevity.
The abundance of thyme bushes, basil, sage, peppermint, spearmint, marjoram and rosemary gives the air a special aroma. These herbs are considered to be digestive aids with valuable antiseptic properties. Sage tea we learn helps to cure colds whilst lemon balm is used to make a remedy for angina, hysteria and other nervous orders although I cannot see how this peaceful life can suggest these problems.
Like other natural populations Symiots make stews using beans which are a good source of vegetable protein and important vitamins and minerals. They use small quantities of lean organic free range lamb and kid for special occasions. Likewise organic sheep’s and goat’s cheeses are used in preference to dairy products.
Fishermen, farmers, stonemasons and carpenters exercise whilst working but the other Symiots have to use the 387 wide stone steps which lead up from the harbour in order to access the village. Thus climbing these several times a day gives regular exercise, which we all know promotes good health and longevity.
Symiots live simply amid their wonderful air and good soil. They are happy, relaxed and serene, keeping themselves fulfilled within the community. They are hard workers and have no reason to lock their doors with no fear of crime.
One 96 year old told how he still tended his crops of broad beans, onions and garlic. He continued to walk for his shopping, ate yoghurt and goat’s cheese everyday, together with lots of vegetables. Whilst another local who died at 107 was still taking on the village steps 3 or 4 times a day to sell her feta cheese at the age of 100! She had never been sick nor had a doctor.