The secrets of Cretan diet
Crete has one of the most ancient and delicious and fine traditions in the world, a tradition of tastes, flavours, styles and matterials that goes back in the pre-historic ages and reaches until today.
It is being discussed in the international scientific community the idea of the most proper diet for the boost of human health.
The Cretan diet has been a subject of studies since the majority of the researchers consider the Cretan cuisine as the most characteristic and a high quality standard of mediterranean diet. It has also been noted that Cretans have the lower rate of mortality generally and the lowest rate of deaths globally due to cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
What is the secret of Cretan diet?
– The answer is that the Cretan eat what their fertile soil produces, i.e they eat lots of greens and vegetables, pulses fruits.
– They flavour their meals with herbs and plants from the island’s mountains (like thyme and basil), while almost always they accompany their meals with wine from local vineyards and extremely delicious kneaded bread.
– Another characteristic of the Cretan table is the variety of dishes that compose a tasty meal.
– But the most important element is the olive oil, which for the Cretans and all the people of Mediterranean, is the basic source of fats. The olive oil is the base of Cretan and Greek diet, and it is being used in most of the dishes instead of other types of oils and butters.
The history of Cretan diet and cuisine is lost in the mists of time. It is the continuance of a tradition that begins back in the age of Minoan civilization and reaches our days.
From archaelogic findings it is concluded that the ancient Cretans, the Minoans, four thousand years ago consumed almost the same products that they consume nowadays.
In the remains of the Minoan era there were found big jars for olive oil, legume, wine and honey.
Also in the pictorial witnesses we see the magnificent world of Cretan herbs and plants.
As centuries have passed, the Cretan cuisine gathered knowledge and experience that have been passed down from one generation to another, and so Athinaios, a greek author of Roman times, has informed us (in his book Deipnosophistae, meaning by deipnon= “dinner” and sophistai = “professors”) about two extremely complicated and delicious pastries that were made in ancient Crete by honey and grape-juice syrup, nuts, sesame and poppy seeds.
In Byzantine years, the Cretans maintained their habits and the wealthier of them preferred complicated dishes with excellent taste. The rural population kept on exploiting nature and its products to support their survival. These products are the base of the famous Cretan traditional cuisine: vegetables, pulses, cereals and olive oil.
All these were enriched with vivid fantasy, making various meals, in different ways, but all nutricious and delicious.
This habit helped a lot in the surviving of Cretans under difficult situations, when the island was successively conquered from the Arabs (824-961), the Venetians (1204-1669) and the Turks (1669-1898).
The conquerors may change during the ages but the soul, the relation, the language and … the cuisine of the Cretans did not change!
This succession created a tradition that is today valuable, since the international scientific community speaks not only for the Cretan cuisine but for the miracle of Cretan diet.
The Cretan olive oil
For too many centuries, the story of olive tree and olive oil is connected to the long history of Crete those thousand years before established the foundations of Western civilization and delineated European history.
It has been referred that the olive tree has been cultivated in Crete around 3000 BC. In ancient Greece, Dioskourides and Diokles have praised the curative properties of olive tree, Anaxagoras and Empedocles examined its history.
Aristotle has risen the olive growing into a science, while Solon instituted the first law for the protection of the olive tree, by forbiding the cut of over two trees per year in each olive grove
And so, this sacred tree – symbol of knowledge, wisdom, wealth, peace, health, power and beauty – that is worshiped for thousands of years is nowadays recommended and put in the spotlight by the current scientific researches as the dominant factor of the good health and longevity of humans.
Many scientists are clear and mere: the main element of the healthy diet is olive oil, the elixir of good health, body robustness and longevity. This gold fruit of Crete is the principal factor and for many centuries the protector of the iron health and longevity of the Cretans, as according to researches the cases of heart diseases and cancer in Crete are less than every other region in the world, and this is due to the regular consumption of olive oil.
The olive oil helps in:
– Prevention of cardiovascular diseases, reduction of LDL cholesterol and retains stable the HDL cholesterol.
– The good metabolism and the brain and bone growth of children. It is also a source of vitamin E for all of us, which combined with mono-unsaturated fatty acids helps to slowdown aging
– Absorption of vitamins by the human organism
– The prevention of atherosclerosis
– The liver function
– The dietary for diabetes
– The empowering of human body towards cancer
Cooking in Crete
The cooking art in Crete uses plain means and materials:
* The combinations are simple but imaginative.
* The products are always edible and seasonal.
* The olive oil is the only and the unique fat material that is being used in Cretan cuisine from the Minoan years until today. Olive tree is cultivated in Crete from 3000 BC
* Wild herbs and greens are eaten usually raw or boiled.
* Pulses are consumed during religious feastings.
* The meat is usually from goat, poultry and during winter from pork.
* Goats even today are of free grazing.
* Fish, crustaceans, shellfish etc are considered excellent dishes.
* Spices are always included in Cretans’ cooking.
* The bread they eat during their meals is made of two kinds of flours: wheat and barley.
* Main sweeteners are the grape-juice syrup and thyme honey.
* Dairy products in Cretan cuisine and diet have a bigger importance than meat and fish.
* In no other cuisine in the world do the snails have such a special place like in Cretan cooking.
* Flavouring herbs are mostly used in various brews/decoctions