Greek food is famous for its strong flavours, but it’s also known for being one of the healthiest diets in the world. According to a Harvard study, the diet of the Greek island of Crete could be the healthiest in the world. This is owing to its extensive use of fruit and vegetables, mixed in with a good amount of protein from meat and nuts. Generally, junk food like greasy pizza and chips in Greece isn’t nearly as popular as it is in the UK. Although the Greek diet has lots of fatty olive oil, the fat in olive oil is unsaturated, meaning it doesn’t clog up your arteries in the same way that butter or lard does. But how has Greek food managed to remain so healthy? Let’s see what the origins of this delicious diet are.
The first cookbook in history was written by the Ancient Greeks. It’s probably not surprising to learn that modern Greek cuisine has its roots in ancient Greece. Fish was more commonly eaten than meat, as it’s more widely available. Think about how Greece has so much water around it! This contributed to the health factor of the diet, as fish contains important supplements like Omega 3. Today, many of us in Britain are told we don’t have enough oily fish in our diet, but the Greeks don’t really have the same problem.
The Greek diet has changed very little throughout history. It’s based upon wheat, olive oil, and wine, although the last past is probably where it falls down a little bit! After ancient Greece had ended, Byzantium replaced it. Because Greece is very close to Constantinople (Istanbul), it benefitted from the fact it was a hub of global trade. Lots of new herbs and spices came to Greece. As well as this, Greece got some new vegetables to experiment with! The fact that this was a time of global trade, with Constantinople at the centre, explains why Greek and Turkish food is so similar.
These days, we know Greek food for the salad, the cheese and the bread. However, if you go to Greece, it’s so much more than that! As well as doing lots of hearty stews, filling appetisers and good wine, Greek food also includes some awesome desserts. Honey is very important to Greek cooking, and rightly so – Greek honey is delicious! Greek cooking occasionally uses spiced common to sweet dishes, like cinnamon and cloves, to flavour its meat dishes. Because Greece is pretty dry compared to the UK, they don’t really eat beef all that much – lamb and goats are more popular. As we learned earlier, the fact Greece has so much water around it has meant that fish are an important part of the Greek diet. This is why you’ll see so many traditional fishing villages in and around the islands – they are really very pretty.
As in many other places, food in Greece varies considerably depending on region. The cuisine of Crete has had a very strong influence over Greek cooking, but that doesn’t mean other regions don’t also have a great selection of scrumptious foods to choose from! When you’re next in Greece, or even at your local Greek restaurant, try something new – you might find a new favourite food.
Image from: http://en.protothema.gr/take-part-in-the-largest-greek-dinner-in-the-world-foot-photos/