What We Can Learn From The Mediterranean Diet

What We Can Learn From The Mediterranean Diet

by | Jul 22, 2014 | Food, Foods & Nutrition, Organic Food, Weight Management | 0 comments

We’ve all heard about how healthy the Mediterranean Diet is, but besides lots of fish and olive oil, what actually makes it so healthy? Spending the last month in Greece, we found ourselves in real food heaven and discovered some of the real secrets behind this primal diet.

Traditional, organic food is a matter of national pride

The Greeks are extremely proud of their cuisine, and their cultural knowledge and passion for fresh, local and traditionally made foods is astounding.

The first day we were in Greece, both our young café waiter and middle-aged taxi driver spoke passionately about how foods used to be grown and prepared and how the modern way was inferior and they must not lose their food traditions. And we hadn’t even said anything to provoke these rants! Many people showed their disgust of pesticides and other chemicals used in farming, bewildered why anyone would ‘ruin’ the food and water supply with such things.

Organic is easy to find in Greece

Organic is easy to find in Greece

The food is fresh, local and wild

And it didn’t stop there. Restaurant menus boast “village” sausage, which is made fresh from local pigs (with no fillers – just meat, herbs and spices). An asterisk next to a menu item means it has been frozen, and the waiters often confirm this apologetically, “Sorry, that one we don’t have fresh. You still want?”

Every village, town and city proudly sells its own local olive oil, honey, herbs, salt, dairy products, meat and/or produce. Even the wine and spirits are touted as special ones from the local region.

Local food is king in Greece

Local food is king in Greece

Local food is king in Greece

Bee boxes dot the hillsides, where the bees create various types of honey from different plants and trees. The honey is never processed or pasteurised, and for some reason it is noticeably less sweet and more delicious than what we are used to.

Local staples like olives, nuts, beans, yogurt, and cheese are often unpackaged in the shops, sitting in bulk ready for customers to order by the kilo. It’s only been in the past 10 years or so that foods have started to line the shelves pre-packaged.

Fresh herbs for Greek cooking

Pre-packaged foods are only a recent innovation in Greece.

Food grows everywhere. We ate apricots, plums, figs and nectarines off the trees. Tomato plants covered in juicy fruit sprout up through cracks in the sidewalk. Every terrace, patio, balcony, rooftop and carport is covered not with a roof, but a carpet of vine leaves with bunches of grapes hanging down for plucking and eating. Wild greens, known as horta, are picked from random bushes on the way home, then boiled and eaten for their vast nutritional benefits.

The famous Greek salad of olives, onion, cucumber and tomato is always cut fresh to order, right before it’s eaten. This maintains high nutritional content AND taste. Salad, along with most other foods, is dressed simply in fresh dried oregano, sometimes a splash of wine vinegar (from all those grapes), and of course olive oil.

Not all olive oil is created equal

Olive oil is the most famous component of the Mediterranean Diet, and in Greece it is of the highest quality and taste. Unrefined, or extra virgin, is expected as the norm, and the beautiful flavour is like nothing we’d ever had in other countries. This is probably due to the freshness.

You see, olive trees grow like weeds all over the country, ensuring a plentiful supply of fresh olives. People we stayed with boasted how many olive trees they had on their land, and how in season, they pick their olives and take it to the local press to make their own oil.

Fermented & Raw Dairy

The other famous topping on the Greek Salad is a thick slice of feta cheese, usually made the traditional way from sheep and/or goat’s milk. Unprocessed cheeses are a staple food in Greece, displayed in huge rounds and cut to order, and eaten with other foods or used as a common ingredient in various dishes.

Greek Yoghurt is also made from these animal’s milk, and rarely pasteurised, unlike the greek yoghurt imitations around the world. The taste is incomparable, and as the Greek’s main fermented food eaten with most meals, its rawness ensures a wealth of probiotics.

Greek goat and sheep dairy is fresh and often unpasteurised

Greek goat and sheep dairy is fresh and often unpasteurised

Greek goat and sheep dairy is fresh and often unpasteurised

Local animals’ meat, eggs and dairy feature on Greek menus

Meat is not the main event, Seafood is not what you think

I think we can learn a lot from the Greek approach to eating animal foods. First of all, local is king, so you will rarely find beef dishes on all those Greek Islands where there are no cows. Pork, goat, chicken and rabbit dishes are common, as these are usual ‘backyard animals’ which are raised and eaten locally, instead of factory farmed.

Snails are another, lesser known animal food staple of the Mediterranean diet, which you can find wild everywhere, so you know they are fresh. Some diet experts believe this is one of the key components to long, healthy lives in the Mediterranean, as snails are highly nutritious.

Snails are a nutritious part of the Mediterranean diet

Snails are a nutritious, lesser-known part of the Mediterranean diet

Secondly, meat is traditionally an addition to the mainly salad and vegetable dishes, instead of the other way around. And meat is mostly reserved for wintertime meals, when there is not as much fresh produce to eat. In the summer, fruit and vegetables are traditionally the focus, with some fish or a bit of meat sometimes.

And of course there’s plenty of seafood, a famous component of their healthful diet, especially in a country with so many islands and coastline. But instead of farmed salmon and white fish filets like we eat in America and Australia, Greek menus feature plenty of octopus, squid, whole local wild fish, and tiny fish like sardines, which are less toxic and full of nutritious oils.

Octopus is widely consumed in Greece

Octopus is widely consumed in Greece

What about dessert?

It’s true that Greek women pride themselves on their baking skills, and Greek bakeries are plentiful, full of various pastries, cookies, chocolates, ice creams and even candies. If you’ve ever had the famous baklava, you know how sweet Greek deserts can be, the filo dough dripping with honey and sugar syrup.

However, it seems that the Greeks don’t eat a huge amount of desserts. Like the French approach, they savour and appreciate these traditional sweets in moderation, never overdoing it.

Dessert after a meal, especially in the spring and summer, is usually fresh fruit. At almost every restaurant we went to, we were served a free plate of watermelon or honeydew as soon as we asked for the bill.

Even dessert can be healthier when traditionally made, as in much of Greece

Even dessert can be healthier when traditionally made, as in much of Greece

So are the Greeks really healthy?

However, we were still bewildered by the alarming amount of fully-stocked bakeries and the amount of bread being eaten. Though the Greek people rank high on the list for longest life-span, the average Greek body shape didn’t seem to reflect these tenants of the Mediterranean Diet and some of the lifestyle habits are far from what we’d consider healthy.

And so we explore smoking, drinking, coffee and other favourite Greek pastimes in our next article, Contradictions of the Mediterranean Diet & Lifestyle, and discover that it’s when we look beyond diet, that we can truly be healthy.

What We Can Learn From The Mediterranean Diet

Related Posts

How Beer and Coffee Affect Your Blood Quality

Brad and his friend Maz Compton show what effect beer and coffee instantly have on your blood. If you really love beer and coffee perhaps you shouldn’t watch this…

Why Breakfast Cereal Ruins Your Day…AND Your Health

Breakfast cereals provide little to no nutrition, are extremely indigestible, and this is what we attempt to fuel our bodies with first thing in the morning.

Vegetable Cheat Sheet L – Z

Common vegetables from L to Z!

Vegetable Cheat Sheet A – K

Common vegetables from A to K!

How Milk Became So Dangerous

The conflicting information is driving us all mad!! On the one hand we hear: Milk Does a Body Good!. It’s essential for calcium requirements, Vitamin D, strong bones and healthy children. On the other hand we hear: Milk causes mucus. It leads to lactose intolerance and ear infections. It’s too fatty. It contains Bovine Growth Hormone. Our societal response to this confusion is low-fat milk, skim milk, no-fat milk, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, oat milk, organic milk, BGH-free milk, no milk. Just more confusion. So what’s gone wrong and where do we go from here?

I Dream of Organic Food in Greece!

After reading this, I’d hope you feel the same! As a an advocate of all things Primal, eating organic food is by far my favourite tenet I preach to people. Bex, Kaiya and I traveled through Greece for a month June 2014 and Couchsurfed for several days with a lady Natalia Merekoulia who co-managed an Organic Co-op called ‘ΣtoA’ (translates: ‘Store’) in Napflion, southwest of Athens.

What We Can Learn From The Mediterranean Diet

We’ve all heard about how healthy the Mediterranean Diet is, but besides lots of fish and olive oil, what actually makes it so healthy? Spending the last month in Greece, we found ourselves in real food heaven and discovered some of the real secrets behind this primal diet.

Are the Japanese the Healthiest People in the World?

According to the WHO stats, the Japanese are some of the longest living people in the world. But a long life doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy one. Personally, we would rather add life to our years than years to our life, so we like to study healthy people and copy what they do. Here’s what we found when we lived in and visited Japan and analysed their diet and lifestyle…

The Only Way to Eat Gluten-Free In Japan

Gluten-free in Japan? Good luck. Trying to avoid gluten in Japan is like trying to avoid glitter at Mardi Gras. It goes completely undetected until you get home and find glitter hiding in your hair and the folds of your clothes. Well, you can’t even imagine all the places that gluten hides in Japanese food…

Kombucha: Everyone is Doing It, Should You?

What is this weirdly-named drink that everyone is into lately? Kombucha, pronouced COMB-BOO-CHA, is the hottest drink in the health food shops and many people are even making it at home. But what actually is it and is it really that good for you?

Primal Easter Recipe Guide & some fun activities

from our family to yours, here’s a primal guide to having a healthy Easter. No sugar-crashes, indigestion, or tantrums. Just yummy food, healthy treats, and new traditions.

15-Minute Primal Gourmet Bacon-Wrapped Chicken & Vegetables

I’m a firm believer that in order to have healthy and delicious meals, you don’t need fancy recipes, special ingredients or a lot of time. All you need are quality real foods and a few tricks in the kitchen for making amazing food in little time. Here’s a perfect example: a gourmet looking and tasting dish using only basic ingredients, barely any cooking skills, and as little as 15 minutes. Let’s do it!

Primal Cleanse

Primal Cleanse

Blog Categories

Pruvit Keto Reboot – 60 Hours

Pruvit Keto Reboot

Ketosis, Ketosis and Keto OS!

Ketosis in 30min!


Related Results

Offers from the CHEK Community