The traditional Greek diet, shaped by history and climatic conditions, meets the main criteria of an optimal diet: It has health-promoting properties and it is compatible with a sustainable environment.
In simplified terms, the traditional Greek diet relies on:
Prototype of the traditional Mediterranean diet
- high consumption of olive oil, which in Greece, more than in any other country, is extra-virgin;
- high consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and unrefined cereals;
- preference of fish over meat;
- emphasis on feta cheese and yogurt, rather than other dairy products.
- Moderate consumption of wine, mostly during meals.
The health-promoting properties of this diet have been documented in many populations, and in different historical periods. In the late 1960s, the original work of Ansell Keys (a distinguished American scientist who studied the influence of diet on health) on the Greek population gave credence to the notion that the traditional Greek diet represents a distinguished prototype of the traditional Mediterranean diet.
The traditional Greek diet has been found to increase longevity and to protect from serious diseases, such as coronary heart disease and several forms of cancer.
Recent studies have also recognized Greek diet for its health-promoting attributes. Moreover, scientists proved that there are two factors playing an important role in a healthy diet:
- combination of food intakes and
- high quality of the component foods
Greece is justifiably proud for the high quality and palatability of many of its food products, including olive oil, dairy products, vegetables and fruits. But it is not only the products that form the most important components of this renowned diet. Many Greek recipes and traditional confections have an impressive array of healthful properties. The surprising nutritional properties of many of the Greek foods are only now being recognized.