Want to make your home into a longevity hotspot? Start with the kitchen!
Earlier this week, I blogged about Ikaria, Greece (aka The Island Where People Forget To Die).
The people of Ikaria eat what most people refer to as a Mediterranean Diet. The real Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower rates of cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease and most recently, heart disease.
It’s a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, some fish and small portions of meat on special occasions. Unlike most of us, they are not chowing down on supersize portions of fast food and all-you-can-eat buffets.
No, they are eating healthy, antioxidant-rich foods which nourish their bodies and help them live longer, healthier lives.
So, how can you eat like a Greek and help boost your body’s ability to live a healthier life?
20 Ways to Eat Like A Greek for Longevity
1. Eat unprocessed produce – Fresh fruits and vegetables are staples of a Greek Islander’s diet. Fresh salads or vegetables roasted with olive oil are common. As is fruit as dessert (despite my adoration for baklava, eating fresh organic grapes is probably my better option).
2. Eat more yogurt – Not just any yogurt, you need the Greek kind. Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt, and it’s also high in bone-building calcium and stomach-soothing probiotics. Now, I’m not telling you what to do, but I keep remembering that line I read, “When you see the words ‘low fat’ and ‘No fat’ think ‘chemical sh**storm’ and run the other way!” So, eat more Greek yogurt and leave the sugar-laden, no-fat, low-fat stuff alone! Instead, maybe drizzle it with a tablespoon of raw honey and mix in some fresh fruit for a delicious breakfast or snack (a few chopped raw nuts can give some added crunch and even more health benefits).
3. Add more vegetables to your toppings – Still craving that pizza? That’s okay! However, get rid of the meat and add lots of healthy veggies on that pie! Think tomatoes, peppers, olives and more. Load that pizza up with antioxidant rich goodness and don’t forget that an organic tomato sauce is packed with even more antioxidant benefits.
4. Get a few more grains in your diet – I know the Paleo diet is all the rage, but frankly, none of the Blue Zones are eating paleo diets. Their diets are heavily plant-based and that includes whole grains! Don’t just think of bread and pasta, explore your options and try something new.
5. Eat Legumes – Legumes are a super power food in terms of getting more protein and fiber into your diet. By adding beans and lentils to your diet, you’ll fill up faster and stay satisfied longer. Ultimately, this leads to eating less.
6. Pack healthier snacks – Forget the french fries, potato chips and snack cakes! Try some chickpeas mixed with olive oil, feta cheese and oregano for a mid-afternoon snack that’s packed with yummy goodness.
7. Eat pasta - Just make sure it’s whole grain and is loaded down with vegetables. You know what else? Watch your portion size! Most of us eat portions that are way too much, so for those of us in the U.S. think appetizer plate size, not dinner plate size when dishing out the pasta.
8. Enjoy some feta cheese – Feta cheese is one of my absolute favorite cheeses! Use this tangy cheese as a topping for salads, wraps and pizzas.
9. Eat some fish – Try a salmon burger instead of hamburger. Fish is heavy in heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. One of my family’s favorite things to eat is smoked salmon on rice rounds with a little horseradish and capers on top. Okay, maybe it’s just me that likes the capers, but fish is good for you! Make sure it’s in your weekly menu planning.
10. Make your own salad dressing – I know we all LOVE the creaminess of ranch dressing, so if you really have to have it, try making it with Greek yogurt. However, for a really great dressing, try mixing up some heart-healthy olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and honey and sprinkle it on your salad greens.
11. Grab some spinach - Spinach can help protect your vision, your bones and your heart. It’s also at least 90% water, which means it may also help you lose weight! One of my absolute favorite things to eat is Spanakopita. If I could eat Spanakopita, roasted Greek potatoes and a Greek salad at least once a week, I would a very happy woman. Spinach is one of those things you will find in a lot of Greek recipes. Throw it in a soup, a stew, a salad, an omelette, or whatever you feel like. Popeye had nothing on the Greeks, they know how great this superfood is for you!
12. Eat more potatoes – Did I mention I LOVE roasted Greek potatoes? I think I did! It’s the most delicious way to eat potatoes. Garlic, Lemon, Oregano and Olive oil all work together to make one of my favorite dishes. Don’t let the bad rap of french fries and potato chips put you off of potatoes. They are a vegetable and can be good for you when made the right way!
13. Eat red meat sparingly – Unlike here in the US, eating red meat is not an everyday occurrence. The Greeks save eating their red meat for special occasions. You should center your eating on a plant-based diet and do the same!
14. Eat more shellfish – Instead of eating a meat-lade taco, try swapping that meat for fish or shrimp. Have a favorite chicken recipe you like? Try using shrimp instead. Shellfish is low in fat and rich in protein. Put it over pasta with some lemon and olive oil, or throw some on a salad or put in a wrap.
15. Snack on real, unprocessed foods – Make a ranch dip using Greek yogurt and dip some fresh veggies in there. Not only will it taste better than the processed chips and junk you’ve been eating, it’s better for you too! Whenever possible (and it’s ALWAYS possible) eliminate processed foods from your diet and stick with real food.
16. Eat more Olives – I love olives! I keep a jar on hand at all times. Olives have that good-for-you fat and are packed with flavor. They are also good source of iron and vitamin E. I like to put them in salads, on pizza and quite often, I’ll eat them straight out of the jar as a snack. Delicious and good for me!
17. Have some hummus – I will admit, I am a new convert to hummus. Now, I can’t get enough! My husband and kids favorite is roasted garlic hummus, but I have recently started loving one I make with pine nuts. Hummus is made with chickpeas and gives you a nice, creamy and protein rich dip to snack on. I, personally, have been known to slather it on a wrap instead of mayonnaise and it is yummy!
18. Season with spices – Mediterranean dishes are packed with flavor. Oregano, parsley and basil are all used in Greek cooking. These three herbs ranked among the top 50 most concentrated antioxidant powerhouses. Use them!
19. Make everything in big batches – Don’t eat all of this great food alone! One of the longevity secrets of places like Ikaria is they socialize! Get your family around the dinner table, invite friends over to enjoy a meal and each other’s company.
20. Drink more coffee – A March 2013 study of elderly Ikarians found that higher coffee consumption was associated with better blood-vessel function, a key factor in heart health. Traditional Greek coffee is boiled in a brass or copper pot and the coffee they use is rich in antioxidants.
So, there you have it – 20 ways you can eat like a Greek for longevity. Which of these tips is your favorite?
* Please note that the information contained on this website is my personal opinion, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice and treatment. If you have medical concerns, please consult with a physician or other qualified health professional. The information about the health topics is for informational purposes only.
I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I am a mom who looks for natural ways to support her family’s health through nutrition, exercise and alternative, holistic methods. Any statements made on my blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions of anyone else.
Statements on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure disease.