The last couple of weeks I have been studying the Mediterranean diet in Crete. This diet, which is named for the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean sea, is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, and higher life expectancy. The locals brag that almost everyone in Crete has a relative that is over 100 years old (it seems like the older I get, the more important life expectancy is to me!).
Below are some observations from my days in Crete:
- I want to incorporate more vegetables in different ways into my diet. Especially recipes with the beets, zucchini, and eggplant we have growing in our garden.
- Breakfast in Crete was usually plain yogurt that you could spoon a little honey or jam (which they called spoon sweets) over, whole wheat bread, cheese, and hard boiled eggs. My yogurt and fruit breakfast is pretty similar.
- Seafood has heart –healthy omega 3 fatty acids. We had snails several times in Crete plus sardines and other seafood. I do not think fresh snails will be on my weekly menu, but some kind of seafood will be. This summer will be a great time to experiment with grilled fish.
- We had many vegetarian meals built around beans, whole grains, and vegetables with some great spices. I am growing some oregano, basil, and mint on my deck that should add great flavor to my new recipes.
- The focus of the Mediterranean diet is not on limiting total fat, but rather to discourage saturated fat and hydrogenated fat. I brought two bottles of olive oil home. I probably will never use as much olive oil in recipes as the Greek cooks did, but I will use it more liberally than I have. I will probably be more willing to drizzle oil over fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to make a simple salad. I am also looking for great tasting olives.
- Bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil, not eaten with butter or margarine which have saturated fats or trans fats. Most of the bread is whole grain. I will try my bread with olive oil.
- Dessert in Crete is usually fruit or yogurt drizzled with honey.
- Exercise is just part of living in Crete. There are fewer cars, the roads are narrow and the terrain hilly. Walking and bicycles seemed to be the norm for travel in the villages, with travel by bus or metro in the city, which means treks to and from the bus stops. I need to work on incorporating more exercise into my daily routine…like a walk at lunch, parking at the far end of the parking lot, etc.
If you would like to learn more about the Mediterranean Diet check out, Oldways, Health Through Heritage.