[Article updated on 19/09/2023]
The Mediterranean diet of Crete or Cretan diet allows you to lose weight and improve your longevity prospects. Its roots date back to 1948, when the Rockefeller Foundation carried out a health study on residents of the island of Crete. The results highlighted a very excellent picture regarding the health of the population, particularly through healthy eating. The Cretan diet is a reference point for healthy nutrition. Followed correctly, it is able to prevent senile dementia and cancer diseases.
Before reading on
I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.
The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.
What is the Cretan diet?
In the 1960s, the World Health Organization conducted research in 7 countries (Finland, United States, Holland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Japan and Greece). This research aimed to find the one with the lowest mortality rate from cancer and coronary heart disease. The researchers also had to find the reasons that help the population protect themselves from these diseases. After a 10-year study, the research results were collected and an incredible result was discovered.
The population of Crete not only had the fewest deaths from cancer and coronary heart disease, but also had a high percentage of long-lived people. The number of deaths from these diseases was so low in comparison with other countries that researchers immediately tried to discover what was the secret of the people of Crete, where people could live longer and better than elsewhere.
After years of research, it was discovered that the Cretans have been eating almost the same way for 35 centuries, that is, since the time of the Minoan civilization.
A centuries-old diet
Their daily diet contains abundant unprocessed grains such as wheat and barley used mainly for the production of bread and biscuits. The Cretans regularly ate legumes such as chickpeas, broad beans, peas and lentils. which prove to be satiating and effective appetite suppressants. They gathered wild herbs from the countryside and grew cabbages, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes and other vegetables. They used sesame in abundance in bread and food.
The Cretans only seasoned with olive oil and ate a lot of olives. They fished and ate fish and shellfish in abundance. They picked from the trees and naturally ate almonds, walnuts, pistachios, chestnuts, figs, pears, apples, pomegranates and many other fresh fruits. With sheep’s and goat’s milk, they made traditional yogurt and cheese. But the Cretans very rarely ate the meat of these animals. They had many hives to collect good and healthy honey. They made wine and always drank it in small doses without ever getting drunk.
A complete or almost complete nutritional intake
When specialists carry out a nutritional analysis within this rich and tasty diet, they realize that no nutrient is missing. Unprocessed grains and legumes contain abundant carbohydrates and almost all of the B vitamins, essential nutrients for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain vitamins A and C necessary for the body’s good defense against infections.
Cholesterol-free olive oil contributes to good blood circulation and contains vitamin E which keeps cells young. Milk, yogurt and cheese contain the calcium necessary for strong bones and teeth. Fresh fish and seafood contain proteins for good development of the body but also many substances for the proper functioning of the heart. Dried fruits, wild herbs and honey supplement the diet of the Cretan people with all the essential amino acids, minerals and fiber.
Fundamental principles of the Cretan diet
At the basis of this exceptional diet, we always find the same products: olive oil, cereals, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy products, legumes, honey, bread and red wine. The fundamental principles are relatively simple.
The Cretans use herbs to flavor their dishes, thereby reducing the consumption of the dreaded salt.
Cheese consumption in Crete is among the highest in the world. Cheese plays an important role in the Cretan diet as an important source of calcium and protein with high biological value.
The quantity of fruits consumed by the Cretans is very abundant.
The fibers contained in traditional Cretan bread help to increase the proper functioning of the intestine and nervous system by becoming a “meal” for intestinal bacteria, making them produce protective and anti-inflammatory substances.
The vineyards of Crete produce ideal grape varieties that can easily be made into raisins. Raisins are eaten raw or mixed in various other preparations, for example cakes, sandwiches, desserts or in combination with other dried fruits.
Cretan honey is completely natural and is produced in regions with endemic vegetation. Crete produces the most aromatic honey in the world and has been producing honey since prehistoric times.
The main source of fat in the Cretan diet is olive oil with its anti-ischemic heart disease oleic acid, which is used both in salads and in food preparation, unlike Northern European countries which consume mainly fats of animal origin.
Another key feature of the Cretan diet is the moderate consumption of red wine that accompanies meals.
Made from fresh fruit and honey, they are eaten twice a week.
Another characteristic of the Cretan diet is the high consumption of vegetables and other plant-based products, including tomatoes, which revolutionized Cretan cuisine and shaped the character of the Cretan diet as we know it today.
Other agricultural products of Crete such as cucumbers, zucchini, etc., are grown in the valleys of the island, due to the more favorable climatic conditions.
How to follow the Cretan diet?
While not all of you can source wild vegetables at home or make your own cheeses and taste the oil from your century-old trees, you can still shop local and support local and other regional producers.
Eat without stress
For Cretans, the most important ingredient of a good meal is friendship and lively conversation. Sharing food with family and friends is always a healthier, happier way to eat.
I remind you, above all, that it is a diet that focuses on the consumption of fruits, vegetables and cereals. Furthermore, he considers it fundamental to replace butter with extra virgin olive oil, as well as reducing the consumption of red meat and dairy products. If you really can’t do without the latter foods, the advice is to replace cow’s milk products with those prepared with sheep’s or goat’s milk.
What is a typical day like in the Cretan diet?
Not too restrictive and easy to follow, the Mediterranean diet of Crete can include a breakfast consisting of wholemeal bread spread with a teaspoon of honey, low-fat yogurt, an apple, a few nuts, the all accompanied by a cup of coffee or tea without sugar or sweetener. For lunch you can eat a tomato salad seasoned with feta and accompanied by fresh fruit.
As for dinner, a walnut and sardine salad, low-fat or Greek yogurt and fruit compote without added sugar do the trick. For these food choices to be truly effective, it is important to favor steam cooking and baking, which do not alter the properties of the food.
The benefits of the Cretan diet
According to studies, the Cretan diet is very beneficial for your health because it strengthens your immune system against many diseases. Research reports that those who follow this diet have a higher life expectancy and lower rates of heart problems. All this thanks to olive oil which contains monounsaturated fats and has an anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive action.
This diet also lowers bad cholesterol, reduces the risk of stroke, and reduces the probability of contracting pathologies such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. In addition, the Mediterranean diet protects against diabetes and helps with weight loss because it acts as a powerful fat burner.
The Cretan diet protects your eyes. This diet helps replenish omega-3 and 6, components that help fight age-related macular degeneration! The risk of visual impairment is therefore limited. Additionally, this diet includes fruits and vegetables rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that help reduce skin aging.
This diet has few disadvantages. It’s all about learning habits you didn’t have before. You can also highlight the benefits if you combine the diet with the best exercises to lose weight. This diet must be done over the long term, since at the beginning you have to restructure your daily habits in order to lose weight later.
Weekly menus and recipes for the Cretan diet
|Tahini bread + milk or curd
|Pasta (e.g.: spaghetti) with olives, pepper and fresh cheese + salad (e.g.: cucumber, tomato, capers and olive oil).
|Yogurt with seasonal fruits and walnut kernels.
|Egg with vegetables and/or seasonal vegetables, e.g. egg salad, stuffed omelette, sponge or strapatsada + cucumber in oil vinegar.
|Yogurt with honey, sesame and cinnamon.
|Chicken with beans or zucchini + salad (for example with portulaca, spring onions, cucumber and olive oil).
|Barley nuts with grated tomato, grated feta cheese, olive paste or chopped olives and olive oil.
|Fruit salad with 2-3 seasonal fruits, yogurt and cinnamon.
|Almond or Thessaloniki type brioche or sesame pastel.
|Giant beans with mushrooms and baked tomato sauce + feta cheese with oregano oil option.
|Grilled fish, e.g. in oil paste with rosemary and vegetables, or seafood + salad (for example with seasonal vegetables, such as endive and vlita, zucchini and lemon oil).
|Barley nuts with gruyere, cherry tomatoes and olives.
|Stuffed (e.g. pepper, zucchini) with rice + salad (e.g. with arugula, cucumber, chili pepper, spring onions, lemon oil).
|Baked omelette (e.g. with spring onions, peppers, mushrooms, feta cheese and cherry tomatoes) + salad (e.g. with coarsely chopped lettuce, spring onions, dill and oil lemon) + bread.
|Fresh cheese (or Gruyere) with honey and walnut kernels.
|Fresh or dried fruits.
|Salad as a main course, e.g. rustic with tomato, cucumber, peppers, dried onion, capers, chopped barley nuts, olives, feta cheese, olive oil and oregano.
|cinnamon rice pudding or honey yogurt or fruit salad.
|Peas with potato, carrot and tomato + salad (e.g. arugula, leaf lettuce, tomato, grated gruyere and olive oil).
|hard-boiled or poached egg or egg fried in a little olive oil + bread.
|Sardines with oregano or baked anchovies with olive oil and garlic + eggplant salad or tzatziki + salad (e.g. with beets, garlic, wine vinegar and yogurt).
|Yogurt with seasonal fruits, dessert, cinnamon and sesame.
|Grilled mushrooms with dried onion, olive oil and balsamic vinegar + tomato with cucumber, cottage cheese or cream cheese, olive oil and basil.
|Seasonal fruits + curd or yogurt.
|Straglia or almonds or pistachios from Aegina
|Pork fillets or beef burgers with brown rice and carrots + warm salad (for example with grilled vegetables, olive oil and balsamic vinegar).
|Fruit salad or homemade ice cream made from fruit (sorbet for example).
|Salad as a main course, e.g. with arugula, red lettuce, dried figs, cream cheese and honey oil vinegar + bread.
Opinion of specialists and health professionals on the Cretan diet
Anyone can follow the Cretan diet. This diet has, in fact, the clear advantage of being balanced and the risks of deficiency are very low. The Cretan diet has few prohibitions and can be followed over time, even by lovers of good food. In addition to consuming omega 3, antioxidants and vitamins, it is important to remember that this diet must be accompanied by regular physical activity. There is also an interest in respecting the rules of conviviality typical of the Mediterranean basin: having more meals together, taking your time to eat, limiting stress as much as possible. A whole philosophy of life which is excellent for your health!
User reviews about the Cretan diet
Charlotte ultimately prefers to return to the Cretan diet because “it allows you to maintain the pleasure of eating and it’s simply common sense”. Very knowledgeable about weight loss issues, Bikiny believes that “the Cretan diet is not really a diet for weight loss but rather a health diet like the Okinawa diet“. This other follower explains that the Mediterranean diet of Crete has a protective effect on the cardiovascular system.