You may have read the popularity of the Mediterranean diet is increasing, due to its heart-healthiness. Indeed, the American Heart Association and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from USDA have lauded the diet. However, as my co-workers and I found in traveling to Greece, there is much more to the food: in fact it is a lifestyle approach that has lead the Cretans to be some of the longest living people in the world. Just what is it about the food and lifestyle that leads to such good health?
There are actually 22 countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. Crete is fairly central, and has had many invasions by neighboring countries and groups over the centuries. It has central mountains, and there grows its famous aromatic oregano. Indigenous greens, artichokes, flavorful herbs, honey, and teas offer wonderful flavorings. Perhaps the most famous plant, the ancient olive tree, provides the basis of the healthy diet. The use of olive oil has been traced back to 4000 years B.C., when the Minoans were found to press it. The true connoisseur looks for green, cold-pressed products, which offer full-bodied flavor and the most heart-healthy anti-oxidants.
One would think the food would be the basis of the Mediterranean lifestyle, but actually physical activity and conviviality (spending time with family and friends) are at the root. They find this contributes to a healthy outlook and reduces stress. We found most people walked or hiked quite a bit, and certainly spent time socializing. Additionally, they do value afternoon naps, and this too helps to reduce stress.
Other significant foods include fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, including snails, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and seafood (octopus, sardines, lobster, squid, and others), eggs, poultry, the famous Greek yogurt and cheese made from goat and sheep milk. Less often consumed are red meats and processed foods, which reduce saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars in their diet. Moderate alcohol, such as red and white wine, is consumed most days.
Want to learn more about the Mediterranean lifestyle and how you can apply this to your eating style? Have you been eager to eat the Mediterranean way, but are not sure where to start? Join one of Penn State Extension's Mediterranean Cuisine Comes to You classes, either face to face or now online. We will involve you in designing and putting the Mediterranean lifestyle into practice in your own life. You will learn great tasting ways to do this, from food focus segments highlighting Mediterranean food selections to preparing simple, delicious recipes, to learning how you can fuel your life for better health! You will apply the Mediterranean food and health principles to design your own healthy lifestyle, based on local foods.
Face to face classes are offered weekly for FOUR weeks. Each class offers:
- Food demonstrations and hands-on food preparation with recipes provided
- Class lessons on the Mediterranean Lifestyle and extensive handouts
- Useful cooking tips
- Tasting different types of Mediterranean and local foods, i.e. olive oil, cheeses, vegetables and seasonings
- Discussions among class participants to share ideas
- Meet and talk with local food producers to learn about new tasty greens and vegetable preparations, cheeses and health research
- Often winery tours and tastings as part of last class
Find a Mediterranean Cuisine Comes to Youclass near you.
You can take Mediterranean Cuisine Comes to You classes onlineat your own time, anytime, includes all of the above, except food preparation and tours.