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Mediterranean Diet and the Ancient Greeks

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In the beginning there was acorn. Then, ancient Greeks said “let there be bread and wine.” But this wasn’t enough and so, the ingredients became fruitful and multiplied – pulse, meat, bread and oil. And the situation continued like this until now, when our kitchen table is full of fats.

This could be the brief history of Mediterranean nutrition. But this history, or to be more precise, this experiment started 4,000 years ago in ancient Greece and keeps evolving.

According to a substitute professor of Biology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, this way of alimentation is not the intelligent invention of some clever Mediterranean people, but came as a result of the constant interaction between inhabitants of this region and the surrounding natural environment.

In the years before Homer, the situation was dramatic, the professor claims. Homeric period is defined as an important moment for the Mediterraneans, since this is the time when they began cultivating grain.

Ancient Arcades fed mostly on acorn. Later on, in the Mycenean Age, began a nutrition revolution – people introduced bread into their daily meals. Grain was the most important source of proteins and carbohydrates for both people and animals of the time.

Homer wrote that the main substances of the meals were bread, meat and wine. He never made reference to vegetables, despite the fact he often included details of the ancient Greek nutrition in his writings.

The reason why Mediterraneans used to consume great amounts of meat may have been the need for fats, which they could not get from another substance.

As for olive oil, which was already known in Homer’s Greece, they used it only as part of ancient Greek rituals – for example, in the Olympic Games athletes anointed oil to their body before entering the arena.

Oil was not included in the “Mediterranean trio” until the classical times.

Historian Herodotus reports that Athens was the center of olive tree cultivation. Scientists estimate that every adult Athenian consumed, on average, 55 litres of olive oil per year.

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