The Cretan diet is a good example of Mediterranean flavors and traditions. The cuisine is mainly characterized by the use of seasonal products with an emphasis on healthy ingredients. Preparation is simple and straightforward as it focuses on releasing the natural flavors of the ingredients.
The Mediterranean diet is currently considered by nutritionists as a modus vivendi “way of life” that ensures longevity and good health, as evidenced by research conducted internationally. It has been found that the people of Crete have the lowest mortality indices related to cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The researchers then turned their attention to the particular aspects of nutrition responsible for this robust health.
The 7 healthiest ingredients in the Cretan diet
Base of many hot and cold dishes: olive oil and olives from Crete
For the Cretes, olive oil is the very essence of life. It is aromatic, rich in nutrients and is even said to be able to reduce the risk of cancer. Some studies show that it can protect the heart muscle and promote the functioning of various organs. It is also worth noting the antioxidant effect that Cretan olive oil can develop. It is often eaten with bread. Enriched with herbs, it becomes a delicious dip. Of course, it is also used for cooking and marinating. Fresh salads can be served with it, which get even more flavor from the oil. The basic condition for the strong aroma and the high nutrient content is the outstanding quality. Cretan olive oil is not produced industrially. It is obtained by pressing olives, in which mixtures and extracts are systematically avoided.
Sweet seduction: Cretan honey from the aromatic garden of the gods
Honey is the healthiest alternative to regular sugar because it is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Cretan honey is also particularly delicious because it is a natural product. The island is like a herb garden of the gods, which smells sweet and thus attracts bees. They are the producers of the delicious Cretan honey that delights the palate and can be part of a healthy diet. The thyme honey that bees produce in late summer is in great demand. It’s wonderful to stir into Greek yogurt or snack on with fruit, muesli or bread. It can even be used as a detox to a limited extent. Honey contains vitamin E, which can rid the body of harmful substances. Gentle, low-temperature manufacturing processes ensure that the valuable vitamins in Cretan honey are not lost.
From mild to hearty: cheese products from Crete
Who would have thought! Relative to the number of inhabitants, Crete is one of the regions of the world with the highest consumption of cheese. The reason is simple: delicious and healthy cheese has been produced on the island for centuries. Well-known varieties include:
– Graviera hard cheese (made from sheep’s milk and possibly goat’s milk)
– Kefalograviera hard cheese (made from sheep’s milk and possibly goat’s milk)
– Myzithra soft cheese (made from sheep and goat whey with added milk)
– Kefalotyri hard cheese (made from sheep’s and/or goat’s milk)
– Anthotyros fresh cheese (from sheep’s and/or goat’s milk)
On the one hand, Cretan cheese tastes very good and, on the other hand, it supports the Cretan diet with its nutrients. It is therefore a source of calcium and protein. Recent research results indicate that milk protein breakdown products may have a preventive effect on breast and prostate cancer tumors. At the same time, Cretan cheeses contain many vitamins: A, B1, B2, B3, B6, folic acid, … The high vitamin content is complemented by minerals and amino acids. The nutrient richness of Cretan cheeses is scientifically proven.
Vitamin bombs par excellence: the fruits of Crete
Fruit is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. In the foreground, the oranges of Crete, with their high content of vitamin C and vitamin B12. Even more famous than Cretan oranges are Cretan grapes. They are a healthy and tasty snack. Thanks to their antioxidant ingredients, they perfectly complement a balanced diet. In addition, berries contain an incredible amount of trace elements, which have a positive effect on metabolism.
No main dish without vegetables
A main dish in Crete is usually made up of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. In order to achieve this perfect mixture, vegetables are used. It features prominently in the Mediterranean diet. The nutrient-dense vegetable is eaten raw, boiled or steamed. Frying is generally avoided as it may destroy nutrients and increase fat content.
Raisins, carob, nuts and more: little things that matter a lot
What would the Cretan diet be without sophistication?
To make them possible, some dishes contain very special ingredients. They are not the main ingredient, but enrich the dish with their aroma and nutrients. At the top of the list are raisins. They are not only rich in vitamins and have an intense taste, but they go well with pastries and pies. Carob is less known but no less appreciated. It has gained a superfood reputation among nutrition conscious people because it is a healthy and natural sweetener. Today, it is used as an ingredient in innovative confectionery and bakery products. Carob can provide energy and is suitable for flour production.
Nuts are a rich classic of Cretan cuisine. They contain polyunsaturated fatty acids which can have a positive effect on cellular function in the body. They have gained a reputation for being able to protect against heart disease. Another extraordinary and internationally loved plant thrives in eastern Crete: Aloe Vera. Called “plant of immortality”. It has been used in natural cosmetics for several centuries. What is less known is that aloe Vera can even be drunk.
From the sea and pastures: fish, shellfish and meat
The Cretan diet is more meat oriented than sea creatures. The Mediterranean diet therefore uses lamb and goat meat as a tasty source of protein. It is very tender and has an authentic taste, the same goes for rabbit and chicken meat, which also enriches the Cretan diet.
The seasoning makes the difference: the herbs of Crete
What would a kitchen be without seasoning? Countless aromatic herbs thrive in Crete and can be used to enhance dishes. However, it’s not just her aroma that makes her so desirable. Herbs have always been valued for their possible effects on the body. They have been cleverly associated with certain foods, for example to promote digestibility. Sage, wild marjoram and oregano are the most famous herbs in the Cretan diet.
Crunchy and healthy: baked goods from Crete
Extensive studies have been conducted which have proven that Cretan bread is rich in valuable dietary fiber, which has a positive effect on bowel function. In particular, the large intestine is activated. Some nutritionists suggest that this whole grain bread may offer some protection against colon cancer. Cretan whole grain bread remains an important part of the Mediterranean diet.
The Cretan rusk, which has even been recognized as a product by the EU. It is unique and of high quality. This rusk is rich in natural raw materials and nutrients.
Representatives of hospitality and friendliness: the drinks of Crete
Wine can have a positive effect on the body if consumed in moderation. In addition, grape juice has a psychological component, which is another reason for its importance in the Mediterranean diet: wine is synonymous with camaraderie, celebration and conviviality. It is an expression of hospitality and liveliness. As a result, the drink can contribute to inner balance and provide feelings of happiness. These in turn have a proven positive impact on health.
The health benefits of the Cretan diet have been praised by many health and nutrition experts, as it makes it much easier to eat healthy foods. The main ingredients of the Mediterranean diet provide the body with adequate amounts of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. These essential nutrients help reduce heart problems and reduce bad cholesterol levels. Some also swear that the Cretan diet can help with weight loss.
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