Saturday, 8 September 2007
Olive Oil in Cretan Diet
In the Cretan kitchen olive oil plays a dominating role. There is practically no dish, which is not served with olive oil. Even today in daily life Cretans prefer a vegetarian diet with beans and other pulses, greens, vegetables and grains, cheese, pasta and potatoes. Meat dishes are reserved for special events, when they host guests or go out for dinner together with friends and family.
Salads are drowned in olive oil, so are fresh feta cheese and vegetables. Dipping bread into the juicy mixture of oil and tomato juice at the bottom of the salad bowl is a delicacy no one should miss when visiting Crete.
There is increasing scientific evidence that there are positive health effects from diets which are high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and which include fish, nuts and low-fat dairy products. Such diets need not be restricted in total fat as long as there is not an excess of calories, and emphasize predominantly vegetable oils that are low in saturated fats and partially-hydrogenated oils. The traditional Mediterranean Diet, whose principal source of fat is olive oil, encompasses these dietary characteristics.
The term traditional Mediterranean dieta has a specific meaning. It reflects food patterns typical of some Mediterranean regions in the early 1960s, such as Crete, parts of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy.
The incorporation of olive oil in the dietary habits of the Cretans dates back to ancient times. The writings in Linear A and B tablets ascertain that Minoans used it in their nutrition dating at least as far back as 1800 BC.
Today, Cretans consume large quantities of virgin olive oil in all their foods. They use generous quantities in their salads, in their fried dishes (fish, potatoes, etc.), in boiled greens, in soups, in all oily dishes, in pastries and even in the preparation of pork!
Salads of fresh vegetables are an indispensable dish of the Cretan cuisine. However, they need fresh, extra virgin olive oil.
Boiled greens and legumes make up the basis of the Cretan Diet. But they are complemented with extra virgin olive oil.
Roast or grilled meat and fishes consist also part of the Cretan diet. However, extra virgin olive oil is necessary for their preparation.
Virgin olive oil is incomparably superior for the frying of all foods. This is so because it boasts great tolerance in high temperatures, whilst other oils break up into units detrimental to human health, but also due to the fact that it adds to fried food better flavour than other oils. It is "accused" of adopting a slight odour after 2-3 uses. This, however, does not present a drawback. On the contrary, it is proof of its naturalness! This is the case because the dark green hue it produces after a few uses stems from the "cooking" of the natural coloration which it contains, and which is not contained in processed oils such as refined olive oils and naturally in seed oils!
Of course, virgin olive oil may be a bit more costly than refined olive oils or seed oils (that do not darken), but it is definitely worth its preference!
Oily foods, prepared in combination with various vegetables (beans, zucchinis, aubergines, okras), potatoes and meat, are incomparable when cooked in Extra Virgin Olive oil.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine
Ancient Greeks believed that Virgin Olive Oil is beneficial to human health and recommended it for afflictions such as:
* Dermatological problem
* Lacerations and burns
* Gynecological diseases
* Inducement of vomit
* Ear infections
* Birth control
* According to the code established by the father of medicine, Hippocrates, olive oil was held to be beneficial for over 60 therapeutic uses.
Today, the modern medicine confirms that Virgin Olive oil is beneficial for one's health and its consumption is recommended for many instances such as:
* Cardio - circulatory illnesses
* Prevention of breast cancer
* Prevention of prostate cancer
* Control of stomach ulcer
* Control of diabetes
* Sexual impotence
* Diet for children and athletes
* Diet for the aged
The Secret Of Cretan Longevity
Anzel Keys' renowned study of seven countries, which was published in 1980, revealed that the health level of Cretans was the highest in the world. Cancers and cardio-circulatory disease were rare, since out of 100.000 people on Crete, there were only 9 deaths attributed to these diseases as opposed to 466 in Finland. It was further proven that this was largely due to the dietary habits of the Cretan people, whose basic ingredient is olive oil.