The Greeks have given the world many gifts, ranging from politics to science as well as architecture. The Greeks have been drivers of so many important fields that are still so relevant today. While all of those things are wonderful in their own respect, let’s put Aristotle aside for a second and discuss Greek food.
Greek food belongs to the now-popular Mediterranean diet. The Greek diet emphasizes nutrition and lifestyle changes, such as engaging in physical activity, eating meals in social situations, and eating a wide range of foods. Many have studied the effects of a Mediterranean diet, leading the United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to endorse it in their 2015 Scientific Report.
Since the Greek diet exemplifies many different aspects of the Mediterranean diet, it got me thinking about the 8 things that we can learn and appreciate from the Grecian lifestyle and diet.
1. Eat meals in social settings and gatherings
There was a reason that My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mamma Mia became such cultural sensations. Who could resist the Greek approach to food in these movies? Though I have only been to Greece once, what I most remember from my time there is how social their meals really were. Wandering through small towns, it was so common to see large groups of people coming together to enjoy their meals each and every day.
2. Enjoy red wine (in moderation!)
The Greeks are really onto something here. Red wine is rich with phytonutrients, which support a range of cardiovascular and cognitive benefits. Several studies have shown that moderate consumption has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. If you are already enjoying wine in your diet, know that a small glass a few times a week is doing good things for your overall health.
3. Eat a variety of foods
Try to eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables! The Greek diet also emphasizes protein from fish, eggs, and poultry as well as legumes. For carbohydrates, choose whole grain options like bulgur, quinoa, and barley. Get your healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds. Switching to these foods have been shown to have significant health effects.
4. Get your probiotics
Don’t forget about the gut-promoting probiotics that is found in yogurt and cultured vegetables. Additionally, making the switch to Greek yogurt will not only ensure you get your probiotics, but also guarantee that you get an extra boost of protein in your diet.
5. Embrace healthy fats
Healthy fats help you look your best by promoting healthy hair, skin, and nail. Additionally, healthy fats support heart health. A recent study showed that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts significantly reduced the risk of combined heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease in people at risk for heart health problems by about 30%.
6. Slow down and appreciate your meals
We are all on the go these days, and it directly impacts how we eat. We scarf down breakfast on our morning commute, eat lunch at our computers, and then collapse on the couch to eat dinner in front of the TV. I totally struggle to take a break from my computer and enjoy my lunch at work. However, this is so important. Paying attention to what you eat will help keep you from mindfully noshing on that bag of potato chips.
7. Engage in moderate physical activity
A morning run or evening walk are common place in Greece and in the Mediterranean in general. I mean, Greece was the birthplace of the Olympics after all! It isn’t too difficult for people in this region to reach the 150 minutes of recommended physical activity. While 150 minutes of cardio or resistance training per week may seem overwhelming at first, it breaks down to 30 minutes five times per week. Does 30 minutes seem like to much of a commitment? No worries. A variety of studies have shown that even 5 or 10 minutes have positive effects on health and cardiovascular risk.
8. Have a healthy relationship with food
It seems like everywhere you turn, there are negative discussions about food, leading to fear and anxiety being associated with food. It doesn’t help that fad diets distract us from fully developing a healthy relationship with food, but that is what’s so great with a Greek approach to food. A Mediterranean diet isn’t just another fad diet that forbids various food groups or encourages consumption of specific foods. Gluten-free or acai berry diets, anyone? Rather, the Mediterranean diet is holistic lifestyle that encourages a healthy relationship with food.
In this case, it really is “all Greek to me” is the way to go. Embrace the Greek approach to food and you will be on your way to a more healthful life.