The Cretan diet is currently considered by nutritionists as a "modus vivende" that endows people with longevity and sound health, as supported by research conducted on an international scale.
It was established that the inhabitants of Crete manifest the lowest mortality indices with respect to cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Mr. Serge Renaud, a French researcher-scientist said, "Following a 15-year follow-up study, it was concluded that Crete manifests the lowest mortality rates irrespective of the cause of death". There is no doubt that the above statement attests to the benefits of the Cretan diet.
The French scientist was referring to wide scale research on nutrition that was conducted with the participation of seven countries, including Greece, in 1956 by Dr Ancel Keys, a pioneering investigator and health revolutionary American. Today, the international community has adopted the Cretan model of nutrition by recommending it as the basis of healthy human nutrition.
Ancel Keys, 1986, compares mortality rates among various regions of the world, including four mediterranean regions.
At another research we have a comparison between the results from the above mentioned study in the seven countries (up to 1986) and pertinent statistical data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) per 100.000 participants (Serge Renaud, 1995). Again, Crete is at the bottom of the list with regard to mortality rates.
In addition to the above, we have the results from a French study in Lyon. The French doctors divided their patients with heart diseases in two groups. The first group was put on a diet recommended by the US Society of Cardiology - a low fat/cholesterol diet - and served as a control group. The second group was prescribed the Cretan diet to be followed during their normal way of life. The results were statistically significant. In two years mortality rates in the second group dropped by 75%!
For Cretans, the secret of longevity is very simple. They eat anything that their rich soil produces! They consume a lot of fruit, vegetables, greens, fresh produce, legumes, cheese and bread. Cretans use herbs to add flavour to their meals; they make sweets/cakes with natural sweeteners, honey and grape-juice syrup; while the excellent Cretan wine is an indispensable accompaniment to their meals.
Cretans do not eat meat or, rather, they did not eat meat until a few decades ago. Meat has always had a ritual quality in Crete, and generally in Greece. In antiquity, Cretans consumed meat only a few times a year, i.e. during festivities or, if wealthy enough, every Sunday. In other words, the dietary code of Cretans has deep cultural and historical roots.
This, however, should not be considered as a limiting, or even coercive practice that could undermine the richness of taste. On the contrary, the ingenuity of Cretans exploited fully the entire spectrum of ingredient combinations, which resulted in volumes of recipes for meals and deserts. Snails, for example, are cooked in 40 different ways!
Pure olive oil is the sine qua non for all preparations! Fresh produce grown under the most suitable climatic conditions has a prominent place on dinner tables.
Cretans do not require doctor's orders to consume large amounts of fruit and vegetables. Grapes, raisins, oranges, etc. are a way of life. Even on days strictly associated with meat-eating, such as the Easter Day, Cretans do not eat only meat. On the contrary, they cook meat with artichokes, wild greens or vegetables - a delicious choice!
Modern Cretans are proud of their cultural heritage - the Cretan Diet. They resist the influx of promotional activities favouring foreign nutritional habits (fast food). Cretan products, being part of a centuries old tradition, are treated with the same respect as that afforded to them by their ancestors.
In Cretan homes, the cooking and the ingredients used, remain the same as decades ago. In tavernas, you can often taste the most fantastic, pure and rich in taste, olive oil. Sitting down for a "raki" in a kafeneio, you could be served with the most simple but wonderful mezedes like goat cheese, olives, dolmades (stuffed vine-leaves), grapes, raisins or rusks. All delicious - all healthy!
One Step Ahead - Organic Farming
The natural environment of Crete favours the development of "earth friendly" methods of growing crops, particularly with regard to basic agricultural products, i.e. those that have adjusted well to the climate of Crete. In the last few years a group of organic growers embarked on a very significant project: to make available select organic products that would meet the exact requirements of modern consumers.
This task started from the olive groves, expanding to garden produce. Demand for such products was impressive.
Every year new farmers join organised groups of organic farmers, while scientific research in the field of organic farming is flourishing.
Experience the combination of delicious foods, while enjoying the ongoing benefits of the ultimate gift - good health!
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