The Cretan diet has been the subject of many studies since it is one of the oldest gastronomic traditions in the world. Its variety of flavors, ingredients and styles make it one of the most ideal diet to promote health. A 1960 study conducted by American Ancel Keys and his associates showed that the population of Crete had better health and lower mortality rates from coronary heart disease and cancer than all other populations studied.
Differences between Cretan and Mediterranean diet
The differences start with fat. The Cretans used to meet their needs in fat with olive oil and not with animal factors. They even had the highest consumption of olive oil from other Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain. Red meat, at least in the past, was eaten only at festivals or every 1 to 2 weeks on Sundays, while chicken was more common in their dishes. Pork was preferred only on holidays such as Christmas. In general, red meat consumption was restricted to that of poultry and rabbit. Of course, eating fish has been a priority since Crete is a (big) island. Areas not close to the sea also preferred the fish 1 to 2 times a week but in the salted form and not fresh.
Limited preference was shown for dairy products as milk and cheese had a very low weekly intake of one glass of milk per day or 20 gr. of cheese. Same preference was shown to eggs too. The consumption was about 2-3 eggs in a week.
The Cretans consumed plenty of bread and nuts but with bran. White bread was not on their daily plate. Their starch needs were covered with potatoes and legumes as opposed to other European countries that preferred spaghetti. But the big difference was the consumption of fruits and vegetables. The climate of Crete helps to develop many varieties of vegetables, spices and herbs many of which are rich in fatty acids and vitamins. Eating the above was a daily habit and in good quantities.
Last but not least are the snails! Snails have long been a source of protein for the Cretans since they were abundant and rich in omega-3 fatty acids (higher concentration of fat than French snails).
In conclusion, we see that for a healthy and balanced diet we need to set an example of Cretan habbits. Less red meat, most frequently fish, seafood and chicken and plenty of fruit, vegetables (boiled and raw), legumes and herbs. The above “rules” will be found in any proposal for slimming, strengthening diet. For the snails we do not insist!