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Greek Diet Works
Photo: Inacio Pires
The Greek or Mediterranean diet seems to be a heart-healthy eating plan. Its elements represent the food folks in the Mediterranean basin have been eating since Biblical times – limited amounts of red meat, little to no alcohol, some nuts and fish, and plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and heart-healthy oils, like olive oil.

Studies consistently show that people who follow these eating practices in combination with regular exercise have lower risks of both heart disease and cancer. And it does not matter where you live – these results are consistent whether you live around the Mediterranean Sea or the in United States.

A recent study, conducted by Professor Dimitrios Trichopoulos at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed the Mediterranean diet to find out what made it work. The study followed 23,000 people in Greece for nearly nine years.  It found that not all elements of the Mediterranean diet are equal. Some are better than others.

Key Health-enhancing Parts

The key health-enhancing parts of the Mediterranean diet are low consumption of red meats, and emphasizing consumption of fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, and olive oil. High levels of alcohol consumption were unhealthy – even if drinking only wine. And varying levels of fish and grain consumed did not seem to either help or hurt lifespan. 

What is interesting is that this diet parallels one followed by ancient Christians more than any other ancient Mediterranean people. On fast days ancient Christians voluntarily avoided eating meat, dairy products, and alcohol.  Fast days then included most Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as the six weeks before Christmas and Easter. 

Of course, today this is considered “old country,” and old-fashioned. Maybe you do not want to go quite that far today. It seems as far as health went, however, that those folks were perhaps smarter than even they realized.

So for a long life, avoid alcohol, limit or eliminate meat and meat products, and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and beans. Round out your diet with whole grain bread and pasta, without feeling guilty about eating them. Cook your food and dress your salad with olive oil, and replace most salt with herbs and spices. 

You can eat like a saint with meals fit for a king.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Want to read the study for yourself?  You can find it online here:  http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/jun23_2/b2337

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