Cretan Diet

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What if I told you I had the secret to eternal youth?  Or if I said you could be the healthiest you’ve ever been without counting a single calorie ever again.?  How about lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer to minimal levels (as long as you don’t smoke of course!)  Sounds far fetched right?  Wrong! 

This way of life has been followed on a Mediterranean island for thousands of years and more loosely around the rest of the geographical area for just as long. 

So what’s the secret I hear you ask?  Or perhaps a more relevant question should bewhere?.Crete 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.

His study has also shown the Cretan population 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 the rest of the six participating countries where there wasn’t a single survivor (even in the rest of Greece)!  The reports finding were nothing short of incredible. People from Crete have significantly lower incidence of coronary disease compared to other groups.

  • 55 times lower than the Finish
  • 37 times lower than Americans
  • 21 times lower than Italians
  • 8 times lower than Japanese

Until recently the diet was simple and wholesome: olive oil, 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.  It should be noted that this way of eating was unusually rich in alpha-linoleic acid, or LNA, which is found in walnuts, flaxseeds, canola oil, legumes and dark green leafy vegetables.

So what comprises a cretan diet?  I’ve scoured the web and trawled through piles of information to bring you a guide to the best diet in the world. Ever.

Key points;

  • Use olive oil as the principal fat, replacing all other fats and oils.
  • Drink a moderate consumption of wine, normally with meals; about one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women.
  • Eat fresh fruit as a typical daily dessert; limit sweets with a significant amount of sugar and saturated fat.
  • Incorporate an abundance of food from plant sources, including fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Eat minimally processed and seasonally fresh and locally grown foods.
  • Total dietary fat should range from less than 25 percent to over 35 percent of energy, with saturated fat no more than 7 to 8 percent of total calories.
  • Eat low to moderate amounts of cheese and yoghurt daily.
  • Consume low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry weekly; and limit eggs from zero to four servings per week.
  • Only eat red meat a few times or just one time per month.

Every day on the average Cretan dinner table, there may be a selection of five or six simply prepared vegetables – not just a dollop of spinach fighting for recognition on the edge of a plate of prime rib.  Simple salads with tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, onion and olives are the norm for lunch AND dinner.  Roasted and marinated green and red peppers, beets, wild or cultivated greens, artichokes, zucchini and eggplant are also hot ticket items.  Cretans eat lots of dried beans like yellow split peas (called fava), broad beans, chickpeas and lentils.  Some beans are just cooked until tender, mashed a little bit and mixed with olive oil, onion and salt.  There are many different types of freshly baked bread, which is always on the table.  The finale is usually seasonal fruit (not baklava, etc.) like cherries, honeydew and watermelon, grapes, figs, pomegranate, apples and oranges.

Grilling and roasting

Stuffed tomatos, peppers, courgette, aubergine with seasoned rice

Water, water everywhere.  Or in this case oil.  Olive oil to be prescise!  Give up any misconceptions you have about olive oil right now, how many calories, how many grams of fat there are. Nobody cares!. This stuff will make you live longer and enjoy life well into old age.  If you are not getting through a bottle a month, you’re not using enough! It’s rich in omega oils as well as anti-oxidants.  In Greece, every man, woman and child consumes an average of five gallons of olive oil a year!

Here are some tips to up your dosage..

**Use it served in a dipping dish alongside some toasty farmhouse or ciabaatta bread. You can also add balsamic vinegar to the oil for an authentic Italian experience.

**Use it on bread instead of butter or margarine.

**Once your pasta is al dente, toss it in som olive oil before serving or serve your veggies with a dash.

**Make bread from olive oil.

**Mix with butter and garlic to make garlic bread.

**Rub over meat, fish or potatoes before grilling, roasting or baking

**Make a salad dressing and be sure to include balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, wholegrain mustard and cracked black pepper.

**Put into a spray pump and use to coat your pans

**Use in baking instead of butter.

**Tie a bunch of fresh herbs together (basil, thyme, rosemary), dip in olive oil and brush over meat before cooking

**Pop corn in olive oil and before serving, splash a touch more olive oil

**If you feel up to the challenge, make a healthy mayonnaise from olive oil.  Here’s an excellent recipe here.

**Add it to mashed potato instead of butter

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