The traditional diet of Crete
“On an international scale there is much discussion about, and deep interest in, finding the ideal diet which will improve the health of human beings warding off illnesses. Ever since antiquity, the traditional diet of Crete seems to be just such a one, including all the right ingredients.
A comparative study among several developed countries, which began in 1960 on behalf of seven countries, has a group of about 700 Cretan men from the countryside under medical observation, regularly checking the state of their health: so far this group has had the lowest percentage of deaths caused by heart attacks and different kinds of cancer.
This study has also shown the population of Crete to be the longest living one: when, in 1991, thirty one years after the beginning of the study, the Social Health Sector of the University of Crete undertook the medical checkup of the group, about 50% were found to be still alive as opposed to Finland where there wasn’t a single survivor!
….Until recently the Cretan diet was simple and wholesome: olive oil of course, which counted for the 1/3 of the individual’s daily need in energy, but mainly cereals, principally bread, pulses, vegetables and fruit and, to a lesser degree, cheese, milk, eggs, fish and a little red wine with every meal….
Taking the conditions of modern life into account, we would recommend a return to the traditional Cretan diet, but with a noticeable decrease in the amount and frequency in the consumption of meat and other animal products. On the other hand, cereals (mainly bread), pulses, vegetables and fruit should represent 85% of our daily food.
The consumption of olive oil must be continued: it has been proven through several past and present studies that this excellent oil plays an all-important role in warding off illnesses and in preserving our good health. Contrary to other vegetable oils, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which are resistant to oxidation and diminish the amount of LDL cholesterol while raising the HDL cholesterol. This last one is a protection against atherosclerosis,…”
Professor of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition
University of Crete
* This article about the Cretan diet has been republished from the book of Maria and Nikos Psilakis: “Cretan Cooking”, KARMANOR editions, ISBN 960-7448-11-1. It is an excellent book with 260 traditional Crete recipes.
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