Basic points of the Greek Diet
- High consumption of greens/vegetables, fruits, and herbs
- High consumption of cereals (including whole grain bread)
- Low consumption of meat and related products
- Low consumption of milk and dairy products
- High ratio of monounsaturates (olive oil) over saturated lipids (butter, lard)
- Moderate consumption of alcohol (1-2 glasses of red wine/day)
Medical research has proven Greek cuisine, especially that of Crete, to be among the world’s healthiest cuisines. The scientific examination of traditional Greek pies (spinach pies, cheese pies, etc) confirmed the prominent presence of flavonoids, substances that prevent cardiovascular diseases and tumor growths. Many prevalent ingredients in Greek cooking, such as raw herbs and greens (especially fennel, leek, poppy flower, sorrel and wild carrot), are known to contain significant amounts of flavonoids.
And it doesn’t end there. For example, the dandelion, a particularly common ingredient within Greek cooking, is incredibly rich in vitamin A. In fact, examples abound: the nettle is a significant source of iron and carotene B, while the chicory is rich in vitamin B12, a vitamin crucial for cell functioning. The seeds of the wild rosebush are rich in vitamin C and the carob-beans in proteins. The mint and thyme are characterized by their anticeptic and anti-microbial qualities, while the sage can be used to heal wounds of the oral cavity. The chemical constitution of grapes is similar to that of mother's milk, while a glass of red wine will protect the arteries of the heart. Fruits and vegetables in general provide ample fibers and minerals to aid in the functioning of the intestines.
Olive Oil and Health
As the world's healthiest oil, olive oil should be included within any right and balanced diet. The aroma and taste that it lends to all dishes is unique and incomparable. As all other oils, olive oil contains fatty acids, which are divided in 3 types: saturated, mono-unsaturated, and poly-unsaturated. Animal fats mainly contain saturated fatty acids, seed-oils contain poly-unsaturated, while olive oil contains mainly mono-unsaturated fatty acids in as much as 83%. Oleic acid, olive oil’s main ingredient, represents such a mono unsaturated fatty acid. As a main source of fatty acids, olive oil helps in:
- The reduction of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) in the blood
- The preservation of "good" cholesterol (HDL) in the blood
- The prevention of artery obstruction and consequently the prevention of heart disease
- Healing stomach and duodenum ulcers since it promotes digestion
- Effecting the metabolism of diabetics favorably thus, balancing out sucrose levels
- Contributing to the prevention of cancer
In Greek EPIC prospective cohort studies of Dr. Antonia Trichopoulos the health effects of the Mediterranean diet:
The dominant components of the Mediterranean diet score as a predictor of lower mortality are moderate consumption of ethanol, low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts, olive oil, and legumes. Minimal contributions were found for cereals and dairy products, possibly because they are heterogeneous categories of foods with differential health effects, and for fish and seafood, the intake of which is low in this population.