On the Table in Sardinia: Red Wine, Bread and Cheese

Could a diet of cheese, bread and wine be the secret to longevity?

For the people of Sardinia, it just might be, says Dan Buettner, a National Geographic magazine writer and Emmy award-winning documentarian.

Buettner, the noted author of "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest," says certain aspects of the Sardinian diet seem to make a difference, adding about six years to life expectancy.

For one thing, the people of Sardinia -- the Italian island located in the Mediterranean -- drink very dark red wine.

VIDEO: The Sardinian Diet includes whine, bread, cheese and nuts.
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"This is so dark that the Italians call it vino nero, which means 'black wine,'" Buettner told "Good Morning America." "And another thing we've just learned ... it's so important to drink your wine with the meal."

That's because combining the Mediterranean diet with the dark wine creates antioxidants that scrub the arteries, Buettner said.

Not surprisingly, Buettner encourages the consumption of nuts, fruits and vegetables, and discourages a lot of meat.

"Meat is a once-a-week celebration," he said. "Not something you heap on your plate several times a day."

Diet Stresses Less Fish, and Special Cheese

Surprisingly, though, he doesn't place too much emphasis on the importance of fish. He says that in the so-called Blue Zones -- the areas of the world he's studied where people live the longest -- fish consumption doesn't seem to be overemphasized.

"The longest-lived diets don't include a lot of fish," Buettner said. "If you're gonna … include protein in your diet, I suggest this cheese that the Sardinians eat."

The cheese, called pecorino sardo, is made from the milk of grass-fed sheep, resulting in a product that is high in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Sardinia is also known for having another kind of cheese -- one that actually is infested with live maggots.

That cheese may contain bacteria that are good for the gut.

"We don't know," Buettner acknowledged. "We just know the longest-lived men in the world eat this. And they eat it as a manifestation of toughness."

Here are some things Buettner says you might find on the table in Sardinia:

Carta de musica – A thin, whole wheat bread high in vitamin D.

Leavened bread – Bacteria used to rise bread also create a variety of substances with positive effects, including vitamins, and lactic acid and may compete against possibly harmful bacteria in the digestive tract.

Fava beans – High in fiber and folate.

Cannonau – A dark, red wine with the world's highest levels of antioxidants for wine.

Pecorino Sard – Comes from grass-fed sheep and is high in Omega 3.

Almonds and hazelnuts

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" Web site.

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