The Greek diet is regarded as one of the healthiest in the world because it’s based largely around fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish and a small amount of cheese and yoghurt.
When many people think of Greek food, pastitso, moussaka, souvlaki and baklava come to mind.
However, a traditional Greek diet is packed with greens, such as xorta (wild greens) fasolakia (green string beans), bamies (okra), legumes including fakes (lentils), fasolada (beans), revithia (chickpeas), vegetable dishes, fish and small portions of meat.
This array of foods looks a lot like what is regarded as a healthy, balanced diet.
Greeks are also famous for their love of olive oil, which is lower in saturated fat than butter, and therefore a good choice for cooking.
The Seven Countries Study was the first to evaluate the links between diet, lifestyle and the risk of heart attack.
From 1958 to 1970, the study observed men living in countries as diverse as Finland, Japan, Greece and America. Dr. Ancel Keys and his team found that countries with a varied diet based on monounsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables and legumes had a lower risk of heart disease than countries whose diets were based on wheat, meat and sugar.
And the best of the bunch? Crete, where 40 percent of the diet came from healthy fats.
Recent evidence published by the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) journal shows that the combination of olive oil and leafy salad or vegetables is what gives the Mediterranean diet its healthy edge, because the formation of nitro fatty acids between the two food groups lowers blood pressure.
If you’re more concerned about your brain than your body: well, olive oil helps with that, too.
A study by Columbia University, published in 2015 in the journal Neurology, demonstrated that those living on a Mediterranean diet have more active and alert brains. In fact, the diet reduces the amount the brain usually shrinks over time by five years.
Celebrity chef Cat Cora said of the Greek diet: “You don’t have to take a lot of supplements, you don’t have to be on any yo-yo diets and things; you just eat a lifestyle that promotes health naturally.”
British nutritionist and author Tonia Buxton is suggesting that the Greek diet could have anti-ageing properties too. In an interview she claimed following the Greek diet for just seven days can have a visible effect on your skin.
“Nutrition is the best place to start when you want to look more youthful,” says Tonia.
She would spend three months each year in Greece eating mainly seasonal vegetables, fruit, pulses and lashings of olive oil.
“Each time I went I noticed how great I felt and how much my skin glowed. So with my mum’s help I began to cook my own Greek-inspired meals,” Buxton, author of the book Eat Greek For A Week said.