Cretan Diet History – Tradition – Health

By Mr. Ioannis Gklavakis

According to Greek mythology Crete is closely related to Europe, since it gave the name to the whole continent. A winged bull carried beautiful Europe from the island of Crete transferring, therefore the wealth of the civilization and the history of the island to the whole world.  A significant element of this wealth is Cretan Diet and the highly nutritional value of Cretan products, a fact that is widely- present all over Europe today.
The history of Cretan Diet and Cretan products started long ago. The findings of the archaeological excavations show that ancient Cretans, the Minoans, consumed almost the same products that the inhabitants of today consume. More particularly, in the Minoan-era palace, huge earthenware jars were found containing olive oil, pulses, wine and honey, while we can see evidence in pictorial form depicting the rich world of the Cretan herbs. The same thing was true in the Byzantine era as well, when the Cretans kept their customs and traditional cuisine was prominent. It is believed that this kind of tradition has helped the islanders a great deal in order to survive under extremely unfavorable conditions when for instance the island was successively conquered by Arabs, Venetians and Turks. «Conquers were changing, but the soul, the religion, the language and the…Cretan cuisine never changed».
This historical continuation created a tradition that is proven valuable today, a fact that is acknowledged by the international scientific community which refers not only to the Cretan cuisine but also to the miracle of the Cretan Diet.
One of Crete’s most important offers to the mankind is the Cretan Diet, the most important part of the Mediterranean Diet. The character and the secret of this diet are simply based on the products of this rich land.  The fertile land of Crete and the special climatic conditions contribute to the production of the most famous fruit and vegetables.  Widely-known for their quality are the oranges, the tangerines and the tomatoes which are produced in all regions of Crete. Equally famous to the agricultural products are the cheeses of Crete. Gruyere, cream cheese and skim-milk cheese are the kinds that are distinguished for their taste, quality and traditional way of production. Moreover, there are vast olive groves in all prefectures of Crete where the well-known olive oil is produced, distinguished for its excellent quality. In fact, it is regarded as one of the healthiest olive oils in the world, since the climatic conditions of the island are ideal for the growth of the olive-tree. Finally, Crete is widely-known for the tasteful and healthy bread products which are produced according to traditional recipes, namely the Cretan rusks such as dakos. A long history and tradition of over 4000 years in the island is attributed to Cretan wine, which is famous for its varieties and excellent taste. The fertile wine-groves of the island give every prefecture the opportunity to produce different varieties, however with extraordinary taste.
It becomes obvious, then, that Cretan products follow the secret of good health and long-life: the wealth and the offer of the land. For this reason, Cretan Diet and the health of the inhabitants has recently become an issue of research and discussion in conferences, the findings of which really show that Cretan Diet is the key to good health. Indicatively, it is referred that in 1947 Rokfeler Foundation came to Crete to observe the health condition of the islanders after the war, ascertaining their very good level of their health. «Cretans were  90% healthier than American people». Even if it took the medical community a long time to comprehend the consequences of these findings, «they had just come across the basic principles of Cretan Diet». Researches continue till today, confirming every time the initial ascertainment.
The Cretans of today wish to hand over this secret of life to the humanity; to offer along with their history and civilization, the cultural product called Cretan Diet in an attempt to maintain the traditional eating habits of the past ,despite the efforts to promote other dietary models mainly fast food.
Therefore, we should all co-operate –farmers, producers, processing companies, packing and promotion companies, the public sector and the government– in order Cretan products remain pure in the same way we inherited them from our ancestors and our history and civilization teaches us.

Source of publication   6th issue In-On

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