Buettner, a seasoned traveler and researcher, has spent the last two decades exploring the globe in pursuit of the secrets to longevity. His focus led him to identify “Blue Zones”—regions where residents experience longer-than-average lifespans and possess more years of health free from illness or disability compared to other areas. One recent highlight in Buettner’s exploration is the Melis family, once holding the Guinness World Record as the “longest-living family in the world.” Comprising nine siblings with a combined age of 861, the family boasts an average age of 95, and the oldest member is 109, all residing in Sardinia.
While favorable genes contribute to their longevity, Buettner identifies a shared dietary practice among the Melis family that may shed light on their extraordinary lifespans. Each day, they enjoy the same lunch: sourdough bread, a three-bean minestrone soup, and a small glass of red wine. Buettner emphasizes that this routine is driven by genuine enjoyment rather than dietary restrictions.
Buettner underscores the significance of beans and legumes in the daily diets of individuals in various Blue Zones, including the Melis family. Extensive research supports the idea that beans and legumes can enhance lifespan, with a 2004 study revealing a seven to eight percent reduction in mortality for every 20-gram increase in daily intake. The high fiber content in beans contributes to cholesterol reduction, stabilized blood sugar, a healthy gut microbiome, lower inflammation, and improved immune function.
Beyond their fiber content, beans and legumes serve as rich sources of essential nutrients like protein, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, and zinc. Buettner notes that a mere 5 to 10 percent of Americans meet their daily fiber needs. Moreover, the longevity expert suggests that replacing animal-derived protein with beans may amplify the benefits of a plant-based diet. The Blue Zones site advocates for a diet that is 95 to 100 percent plant-based, with minimal inclusion of meat and dairy if chosen.
The three-bean minestrone soup recipe enjoyed by the Melis family is now accessible on the Blue Zones website, offering a tangible example of dietary practices that contribute to their exceptional longevity.