The Miracle of the Cretan Diet
As the study of the seven developed countries has shown, which began in 1960 and continues until today, the traditional diet of Cretans from ancient times appears to meet those characteristics that make it excellent. From this study, which included decades of watching a group of about 700 rural area men of Crete, it was shown that this population had fewer deaths from heart attacks and cancer compared with residents of all other countries they surveyed. The population of Crete among others was by far the longest living compared to other developed countries.
A typical fact is that in 1991, when the Department of Social Medicine, University of Crete undertook the review of older people in the 31st year of the study, the survivors in Crete were about 50% of the original population, while in Finland there was one survivor! This survey followed many others. In all cases, the clinical results of researches on the Cretan diet link the excellent health and longevity of the Cretans with their traditional diet.
What is the secret of the Cretan Diet?
Regardless of lifestyle, eating habits have proven to influence, and indeed to a great extent, the good progress of health. Crete has one of the oldest and most palatable culinary traditions in the world, a tradition of flavors, fragrances, ingredients and styles, which starts from prehistoric times and reaches up to today. Cretans are fed with products produced by their land, which means that they eat plenty of home-grown vegetables, herbs and vegetables, pulses and fruit and they flavor their food with herbs and plants from the mountains of the island, such as thyme and basil, while almost always accompany the food with wine from local vineyards and extremely tasty bread, traditionally baked. They rarely consume eggs, cheese, milk, meat and fish in smaller quantities. Another feature of the Cretan table is the variety of dishes, none of which monopolizes the taste but they all together form a delicious ensemble. The most important nutrient of Crete, as well as of the Mediterranean diet, though, is olive oil.
The oil consumption is directly linked to the good health of the inhabitants. In the Cretan diet the basic fat was traditionally olive oil and even in distinctively large quantities. The locals use it for cooking, salads and even on bread for breakfast. Oil is the basis of the Cretan and Greek diet, and is used in most dishes replacing butter or other types of oil used in other regions of the world. The nutritional value of oil is enormous as it is perhaps the most powerful antioxidant in nature, protecting the body from oxidation and the development of free radicals that cause serious diseases.
Olive oil, unlike seed oils, is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that are resistant to oxidation and reduce LDL cholesterol without affecting HDL cholesterol which protects against atherosclerosis. In addition, the olive oil contains a large amount of antioxidants, such as tocopherols and hydroxyphenol which protect both against atherosclerosis and various cancers by binding free toxic radicals. Interestingly, the composition of olive oil in fatty acids is similar to that of fat in breast milk.
The fact that Cretans live longer and have the lowest rates in the incidence of diseases seems to be directly connected with the fact that they are the biggest oil consumers worldwide. It is confirmed that the excellent health and longevity of the Cretans is largely due to their traditional diet. A diet worth turning our interest to, following and imitating.