Cretan diet the most typical example of high quality cuisine.
In recent years, the international scientific community has been increasing its efforts in the quest for the ideal diet in terms of health. Cretan diet lies at the centre of attention, as most studies present Cretan cuisine as the most typical example of high-quality Mediterranean cuisine. Cretans, admittedly, have the highest longevity rate in the world and the lowest mortality rate from conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
But what is the secret of the Cretan diet? Crete has one of the oldest and most tasteful cuisines in the world. It is the continuation of traditional flavours, aromas, ingredients and styles dating all the way back to the Minoan times. Archaeological findings show that 4000 years ago ancient Cretans consumed more or less the same products as Cretans today. Many large urns used for storing oil, wine, cereals, legumes and honey were found in the Minoan palaces.
The recipe for longevity never tasted any better
In the course of its long history, Crete’s gastronomy has been greatly influenced by the many people who tried at one point or another to conquer it. But if we examine this timeline more closely, we will find that Cretans had a way of filtering every dietary habit and adapting it to their standards, thus adding a special character to it. Century after century, the soul, the language and the cuisine of Cretans has remained unchanged!
This continuity and the ability of the island to preserve its personal character, despite changes and adversities, formed a tradition which is now proven to be particularly valuable. Thus, the international scientific community not only speaks about Cretan cuisine, but also about the miracle of the Cretan diet!
The Cretan cuisine is not considered rich in terms of variety of ingredients. It is a cuisine based on what the Cretan land has to offer. Focus is placed on the art of cooking and the processing of simple ingredients, rather than on using complex and rare combinations of expensive raw materials.
The Cretan cuisine is different from other cuisines because it does not try to mix flavours, irrespective of the variety of the ingredients used for the everyday table. Each ingredient maintains its autonomy, its identity and its flavour. They all co-exist in harmony, highlighting this fine balance that defines the Cretan cuisine and the island in general.
Each region in Crete has its own specialties. Cretans feed on the products of their land: plenty of fruit and vegetables, greens, and legumes. The use of meat is relatively limited in Crete, while cheese holds a special place on the table. Herbs and plants picked from the island’s mountains add flavour to everyday food. As a rule, lunch or dinner is always accompanied with local wine and exceptionally tasty hand-kneaded bread. In general, one might describe Cretan cuisine as an imaginative, creative, and particularly aromatic proposition, based on simple seasonal ingredients, and the art that comes from the love for the land and the attachment to traditional cooking methods.
Olive oil and wine:
a holy alliance for good health
If you go on a tour around the villages of the Cretan inland, wherever you turn your head, you will see the holy alliance that lies at the heart of the Mediterranean diet: every vineyard is always next to an olive grove. It does not require much effort to understand that olive oil is a special nutritional product for Cretans, who, like the rest of the Mediterranean people, use it as their main source of fat. Olive oil has been used in Crete since the Minoan times, replacing butter or other kinds of oil used in other regions of the world. Its value is immense, given that it is the most powerful antioxidant found in nature.
Olive trees have been cultivated in Crete since 3000 BC. The Mediterranean climate of the island and the favourable composition of the soil allow olive trees not only to grow everywhere, but also to provide the highest possible quality
of oil, with low acidity and a wonderful flavour. The fact that Cretans live longer and have the lowest disease rates seems to be directly connected to their being among the largest consumers of olive oil in the world.
The second, yet as important, chapter in Cretan diet is wine. In recent years, it has been proven that two or three glasses of wine per day offer protection from cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, the substances contained in the skin of the grape interact with the barrel where the product is stored to create polyphenols, very powerful antioxidants with significant anticancer properties! Cretans, however, do not need medical studies proving that wine, when consumed in moderation, may have a beneficial effect on health. For them, there is only the traditional way of life, which dictates that wine should accompany dinner or lunch. Wine is a part of Cretan culture.
Cretans never drink on their own. Wine is the basic ingredient of companionship and socialising. They drink together, they laugh and they talk. Modern wineries in Crete have put to good use the traditional vine varieties and the experience accumulated over the centuries. Tradition goes hand-in-hand with knowledge and technology, for maximum enjoyment and good health.