Anna Maria Papiri - The Diet Cure

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Eat and Live Like a Greek   g p 4 Weeks New Calisthenics Workout Program 30 Quick, Easy, Delicious and Healthy Dinner Recipes 14 Days Vegetarian Meal Plan & 10 Simple Veg-Recipes Happiness on Your Plate, Foods that Make you Happy
Wellness Editor

Ikaria, a World Phenomenon

What can a stockbreeder from Sardinia, a Japanese grandmother and a farmer from Ikaria have in common? At first glance, absolutely nothing. Still. These people actually belong to the communities with the highest longevity rates in the world, known as the “Blue Zones”. [50]

This term was first coined by writer Dan Buettner in his book “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from People Who Lived the Longest” to describe some geographical areas in the world whose inhabitants live longer than their average fellow citizen and at the same time have a lower risk of contracting a serious disease or illness. Dan Buettner and his colleagues identify five Blue Zones. [50, 51] These are:

- Sardinia island in Italy. In the mountain villages of Nuoro Province, a significant percentage of the men live to be over 100 years old.

- Loma Linda in California. The inhabitants of the wider region have the highest longevity rates in all of the USA.

- Okinawa Island in Japan. The life expectancy of its inhabitants far exceeds the corresponding average of the country.

- Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica. The region shows the lowest mortality rates among 35 to 54-year-olds, while the likelihood that they will reach the age of 90 y.o. is 4 times higher than for people living in the United States of America.

- Ikaria island in Greece. One in three inhabitants lives up to 90 y.o. In addition, Ikarian people have 20% less chance of developing cancer, are 50% less likely to develop coronary artery disease, and dementia rates are close to 0%.

In Europe, only 0.1% of the population lives to be over 90 years old. In Ikaria, the Greek island of the Aegean Sea, the figure is ten times higher. Let’s take a closer look at the habits that make its inhabitants live longer. [52, 53]


HABIT: Most Ikarians go to church on a regular basis and enjoy taking part in religious rituals (e.g. weddings). [53]

SCIENCE: Experts argue that the sense of purpose given by religious traditions is positively related to increased life expectancy. [54]

Variety of greens

HABIT: More than 150 varieties of wild edible greens thrive in Ikaria. [55] Some contain 10 times more antioxidants than red wine.

SCIENCE: Their action helps preserve cardiac health. [56]



HABIT: Ikarians tend to consume various herbs in the form of infusions on a daily basis. [53, 56]

SCIENCE: Many of these have been shown to reduce blood pressure, risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia. [57, 58]


HABIT: Ikarian relationships with friends and family are so close that they seem to – literally –add years to their life expectancy. [52, 53]

SCIENCE: It has been demonstrated that strong social bonds reduce the risk of depression while helping to maintain low body weight. [59]

Sex life

HABIT: In Ikarians, sexual activity continues even after the age of 65. In fact, 80% of them state they have sex regularly. [53]

SCIENCE: The high testosterone levels that are required for an active sexual life sustain cardiac health. [60, 61, 62]


HABIT: One of the most characteristic habits of the island’s inhabitants is the early afternoon nap or siesta.

SCIENCE: According to a research, 30 minutes of siesta, three times a week, are enough to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 37%. [63, 64, 65]


HABIT: As you may know, Ikarians do not follow a strict time schedule.

SCIENCE: This life attitude greatly reduces stress levels and protects from conditions

ranging from an early onset of aging to arthritis. [66, 67]


HABIT: Ikarians prefer walking. [68]

SCIENCE: According to a survey, just 15 minutes of exercise per day increase life expectancy by 3 years. [69, 70]

The Ikarian wonder in numbers

- Only 10.1% of them are illiterate.

- 40.9% of women over 80 y.o. are married. (The corresponding rate for men is 87.7%)

- 83.7% of men and 70.2% of women remain physically active.

- 82% of men and 25% of women have quit smoking.

- On average, they consume 2-3.5 glasses of wine and just 290ml of coffee (about 1-2 cups) on a daily basis.

- 84% of men and 67% of women take a siesta daily.

- Dementia rates are close to 0%. [50, 53]


Greek Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diets, in 1993, a consensus was reached on a definition of what could be considered a healthy traditional diet. [73]

The Mediterranean diet is a way of life

These results can be attributed to the Mediterranean diet, physical activity and possibly the climate. This phenomenon has been studied by several scientists, most notably the American physiologist and researcher Ancel Keys. Along with his Mediterranean colleagues, he was able to demonstrate that the dietary habits prevailing in Italy and Greece at the time were strongly linked to the very low rates of cardiovascular disease and death. [71]

The term “Mediterranean diet” was coined by Keys and started being used in the 1950s and 1960s to describe the dietary model followed by the people living in the Mediterranean countries that were included in the “Seven Countries Study”. It became widely popular due to the initial -and remarkable- research findings. [72] Passionate and full of enthusiasm for the Mediterranean diet, Keys wrote in 1995 that “we should persuade children to ask their parents to feed them like they do in the Mediterranean.” [72]

At the International Conference on

The Mediterranean diet is not just about eating habits. It is a lifestyle, a culture, a mentality and part of our everyday life. It is about habits embraced and passed on from generation to generation. The Mediterranean way of life is characterized by vitality and family bonds. Food in the Mediterranean is directly linked to communication, entertainment and culture. Interpersonal and family relationships are the foundations of the Mediterranean way of life. Gestures, such as offering help and support, evoke feelings that have a very positive impact on cardiac health. Close family ties help achieve emotional and mental stability, especially when these bonds remain strong and intact over time. [73]

Moderate physical activity is an integral part of the everyday Mediterranean lifestyle. As far as meals are concerned, they are always consumed in a seated position around the table, and always with company. Food is a ritual, a tradition and a culture, aiming at the simultaneous satisfaction of all 5 human senses. Social events are always accompanied by food and this in turn always breeds new social bonds. This connection goes both ways and constitutes a major feature of the Mediterranean lifestyle. [74, 75]

The Mediterranean diet is always in balance with the local traditions, climate and needs of each region. It is also a key cultural

It quickly became apparent that the Mediterranean diet had many benefits on people’s health and quality of life. Although health services provided to the Mediterranean people were inferior to those in northern Europe, human morbidity is much lower despite the fact that smoking is widespread.

factor. Mediterranean countries make for varying types of production, communication, transportation and, naturally, geographical reliefs, a fact that probably accounts for the great diversity of products included in the Mediterranean diet. It is precisely for these reasons that this diet constitutes a sustainable eating habit that promotes not only the health and well-being of people, but also the biodiversity of Mediterranean lands. It respects the environment, promotes the principles of ecology and uses local produce cooked with traditional methods typical of each region. Therefore, the Mediterranean diet should be perceived as a single entity with many local variations that not only offer variety in our menu but are also directly related to the culture and traditions of each region. The Mediterranean diet is rich in nutrients and meets the nutritional needs of individuals of all ages. Its basic principle is the triptych: balance - measure - variety.

Although in the Mediterranean region we come across different versions of the Mediterranean diet, there are some basic characteristics that remain the same throughout. Olive oil is definitely its cornerstone; it is mainly consumed in the form of extra virgin olive oil. It is the main source of fat intake, ousting all other sources. [76]

Extra virgin olive oil comes from the olive’s first cold pressing without the use of chemicals or high temperature. Only through this process can olive oil retain the large amount of polyphenolic ingredients that are valuable to human health.

What is it that makes this diet so special?

[77, 78, 79, 80, 81]

- The balanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from fruits, vegetables, animals and seafood.

- Increased intake of antioxidants from various foods (wines, fruits, vegetables).

The Greek-style Mediterranean diet requires:

- A daily and increased intake of fruits and vegetables, pulses, dried nuts, seeds and cereals in raw or cooked form. The traditional Greek diet includes significant amounts of wild vegetables and greens, such as purslane: sources rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

- Frequent consumption of meals cooked with extra virgin olive oil. The total fat intake may be high (about 40% of the energy intake), but it has a monounsaturated (MUFA) to polyunsaturated (PUFA) ratio of 2.

- Moderate weekly dietary consumption of dairy products, mainly in the form of yogurt and feta cheese.

- Tasty homemade snacks using local and seasonal produce.

“The Mediterranean diet is rich in nutrients and meets the nutritional needs of individuals of all ages”

- Moderate consumption of red wine during meals.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is the world’s only dietary model that has been repeatedly researched by numerous experts who have consistently confirmed its beneficial role for human health. [78, 81]

It is also worth mentioning that, due to the above, the Mediterranean diet has been included in UNESCO’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” list since 2010, in a successful attempt to preserve and defend its special characteristics. [82, 83]

It “nourishes” your genes

Scientific research does not stop here. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet on human health are now explained in depth based on the molecular structure and the way the human body functions at DNA level.

Nutritional Genomics, a new Science

In 2001 the decryption of the human genome was completed, and new data was presented to the scientific community. The food sector could not stand idle before this new reality.

The new discipline of Nutritional Genomics was created to integrate system biology and its applications into nutritional research. It encompasses Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics, which both use molecular biology and bioinformatics tools and methods, in clinical and nutritional studies and research.

Nutrigenomics examines how our food and eating behavior affects the expression of our genes. Nutrigenetics analyzes how the complexity and specificity of each individual, with his/her unique DNA, interacts with our eating choices. Findings derived from

Nutrigenomics and/or Nutrigenetics studies can in no case be compared to equivalent findings, derived from pharmacogenomics or pharmaceutical research. [84]

This is because, unlike medication, nutrition combines both the instant and the chronic administration of multiple elements in small and large quantities without any risk of toxicity.


Recent clinical studies of nutrigenomics show the potential of the Mediterranean diet, as a whole, and of olive oil -its essential ingredient-, in particular, (a) to modify our gene expression by protecting us against chronic diseases and (b) to neutralize negative genetic predispositions which heighten the risk of developing chronic conditions. [85, 86, 87]

Your assistant to losing weight

Can you lose weight following a GreekMediterranean diet?

Of course you can and as a matter of fact, healthy weight loss should be based on the Mediterranean diet.

The accumulation of abdominal fat is a risk factor associated with overweight and obese people, predisposing them to cardiovascular diseases. Waist circumference combined with a person’s body mass index (BMI) is widely used to better identify cases of obesity and its consequences. [88]

A recent study, conducted on a population of 2,513 Spanish youngsters aged 10 to 24 y.o., was the first to demonstrate that the principles of the Mediterranean diet are associated with a reduction in waist circumference, an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease even in younger age groups. Researchers primarily studied the degree of


compliance to the Mediterranean diet. The study’s results helped them identify young people at high risk thus allowing them to take the actions necessary to prevent future health decline. This study provided additional evidence that the Mediterranean diet plays an important role in reducing waist circumference, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. [88]

The link between antioxidants and weight control was made when it was observed that people consuming abundant foods rich in antioxidants tend to have lower body weight. Study results on the effect of antioxidants on fat cells (adipocytes) indicate that they prevent accumulation of fat in cells. One of the primary suspected mechanisms of action is that they improve insulin sensitivity, the ability of insulin to effectively affect the metabolism of carbohydrates and glucose. Additional mechanisms involve inhibiting lipogenesis and regulating enzymes and hormones involved in lipid synthesis and metabolism, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, which is particularly high in obese patients, thanks to the anti-inflammatory effect that most antioxidants

yield (e.g. resveratrol, oleuropein, etc.).

In addition, fiber does not cause abrupt changes in blood sugar levels that trigger insulin secretion to spike, thus helping to bring down the overall rate of lipogenesis.

Monounsaturated fatty acids, MUFAs, in olive oil (oleic acid) and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, PUFAs, in fatty fish (e.g. salmon) both stimulate fat breakdown in adipocytes, and reduce the ability of insulin to inhibit lipolysis.

All of the above are main ingredients of the Mediterranean diet; they help our body become a milder, more compatible and more viable biological environment that particularly favors the removal of toxic substances through the body’s own natural processes: urine, feces, sweat etc. This increased efficiency in the elimination of toxic substances facilitates our metabolism and activates the mobilization of stored fat.

In this way, our body regains its biological balance and any excess weight decreases gradually and in a healthy way. This is by far the most recommended and healthy weight loss procedure. [88]


Foods with Long-Lasting Hype

Olive Oil

Olive trees are more closely connected with Greek land and with the concept of Hellenism than any other tree. In ancient times, the Acropolis citadel was said to host the sacred olive tree, which goddess Athena herself had gifted to the Athenians.

Hippocrates called olive oil “the great healer” with extensive reference to 60 medicinal uses, while Homer referred to it as “liquid gold”. Olive trees were systematically cultivated in Crete during the Minoan civilization, and numerous archaeological finds prove that it was also systematically cultivated during the Mycenaean period in various parts of Greece. There are many references and archaeological finds both in ancient Athens and Santorini (Thira), where fossilized logs of olive trees have been found. [89]

Oil was the only form of vegetable fat used for cooking and an equally common ingredient for seasoning, often combined with numerous aromatic herbs. [1, 2]

BENEFIT: In 2006, EUROLIVE, a European randomized clinical study [90], was the first study to provide evidence of the protective role of virgin olive oil’s phenolic components against oxidative stress following moderate

daily consumption. This study looked into the consumption of three types of olive oil with a different content of phenolic components each (high, average, low) in 200 healthy volunteers from all over Europe. Results showed an increase in good cholesterol (HDL) and reduced lipid oxidative stress after only three months of consumption [90], leading the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to issue a health claim for extra virgin olive oil. [91]

More specifically, it demonstrated that the phenolic components of olive oil promote the creation of antibodies (OLAbs) against the oxidized form of bad cholesterol (oxidized LDL) and that this is enhanced in cases of advanced lipid oxidative damage. The oxidized form of bad cholesterol is a molecule that plays a very active role in the onset of atherosclerosis. On the contrary, increased protective action is ensured when our body generates the appropriate antibodies (OLAbs) to combat this oxidized form. [90]

Oleocanthal, found in olive oil, appears to have an effect similar to that of the ibuprofen anti-inflammatory drug. [92]

It is worth noting that, no cytotoxicity has been demonstrated in any study delving into the role of phenolic components.

The EUROLIVE study became the driving force that convinced EFSA to approve the health claim, paving the way for it to be mentioned on olive oil labelling. This claim states that the phenolic components of olive oil help protect blood lipids against oxidation. These beneficial effects from the consumption of olive oil are achieved when at least 20 grams of olive oil per day are consumed as part of the Mediterranean diet.

Many of the foods of our ancestors have great nutritional value and to this day play a leading role in our lives and cuisine.

Of course, the huge beneficial medicinal role of olive oil phenols is not limited to blood lipids and oxidative stress but also extends to multiple cardioprotective properties. [93]

Cereals - Bread

Cereals were a gift of goddess Dimitra to the people and they were the basis of the ancient Greek diet (they are, in fact, named after the Goddess, who was called Ceres by the ancient Romans). [2, 3] The most popular everyday ‘bread’ – usually shaped like flapjackswas made with barley flour. A great variety of bread was considered a luxury for ancient Greeks. Several types of breads have been recorded, named after the way they were baked. More rarely, bread was also made from zea flour. There were, of course, some types of bread reserved for special occasions, such as religious feasts. During the major Athenian feasts, poor people offered animal-shaped bread rolls as a sacrifice to the gods. [94, 95]

BENEFIT: Whole-grain bread protects against colorectal cancer and is ideal for people who are on a diet because it causes a feeling of satiety.

Cretan rusk

It is a main ingredient of the now famous Cretan diet. It is considered to be one of the oldest standardized products, as it can be stored for years without spoiling. It is also rich in cereals and plant fibres that are essential for the good functioninςg of the intestine and the whole body. It is rich in B and E complex vitamins, and trace elements (like magnesium).

BENEFIT: It contains magnesium, manganese, selenium, amino acids (such as tryptophan), fibres and antioxidant ingredients (such as lignans and selenium).


In Greece, it has been known since antiquity. It has the form of little clumps or big buds and has a distinctive taste and strong aroma. Caper shrubs can be found throughout the Mediterranean islands, mainly draped over steep cliffs. However, Santorini is the only island to boast its own, unique traditional technique of preservation through sun-drying.


BENEFIT: According to a recent study in the International Journal of Agriculture and Crop Sciences (IjACS), caper reduces flatulence (bloating); it is a source of minerals, trace elements, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and has an antioxidant action. [96]

Dairy Products Cheese

Ancient Greeks consumed various types of cheese like fresh cheese, cottage cheese, soft goat cheese, spicy cheese with fig juice, pounded cheese with pepper, as well as butter and yogurt. [2, 3]

The first mention of Greek cheese is to be found in Homer’s Odyssey. According to the ancient Greek epic poem, it was the mythical Cyclops, Polyphemus, that first produced cheese by accident, when the milk curdled while he was carrying it in animal skins. [98]

(Greek) Coffee

Greek coffee is made with lightly roasted coffee beans that have been ground to a fine powder and are boiled adding water in a special coffee pot called “briki”. It is largely preferred over any other type of coffee in many regions of the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa. In Greece, “Greek coffee” grew popular during the period of Ottoman rule and was called “Turkish” up until the expulsion of Greeks from Istanbul in 1964. [97]

BENEFIT: According to research by the Medical School of the University of Athens, high consumption of Greek coffee is associated with better blood vessel functioning, a key factor in heart health. [97]

Did you know that...

BENEFIT: Among the Greek cheeses, the Cretan “Kefalotyri” has the highest percentage of calcium (442 mg/30g), and the Cretan “Graviera” has the lowest fat (9.7gr/30g). The Greek feta, a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) product, has recently revealed its nutritional secrets and its 489 proteins that make it a uniquely nutritious staple of the Greek Mediterranean diet. [99]


It is no coincidence that dairy products, especially goat or sheep milk products, are at the base of the Greek diet pyramid. They are a valuable source of calcium (one glass of milk provides 1/3 of the recommended daily intake), which is necessary not only for strengthening the intestinal flora and for

Zea flour (zea means “giving life”) was a staple of ancient Greek cuisine. Compared to hard wheat flour zea has less gluten and higher protein and fibre content, while it contains 40% more magnesium than other cereals.


building strong bones, but also for preserving bone mass.

BENEFIT: According to a 2006 study in the Diabetes Care Journal, every extra dairy portion consumed can help reduce the risk of developing the disease by 4%. Beyond that, it is also an excellent protein source. [100]


One of the oldest foods known to mankind. Ancient Greeks knew its beneficial properties. Strained yogurt (10% fat), however, is special. It may have the same calories as any other yogurt, but it contains almost twice the amount of protein and half the amount of carbohydrates. This makes it ideal for those who want to follow a low carbohydrate diet or want to control their weight.

BENEFIT: The live bacteria that yogurt contains contribute to the intestinal microflora and to the production of intestinal antibodies. Besides calcium, it is also rich in B complex vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. [101, 102]


In ancient Greece, ducks, quails, geese and chickens were bred for their eggs. Several texts state that pheasant and Egyptian goose


eggs were prized as rare delicacies. Eggs were consumed hard-boiled or soft-boiled as an appetizer, were used as raw materials in recipes and were also served as dessert. [94]

BENEFIT: Eggs are a natural source of B12, B2, A and D vitamins. They also contain folic acid, lecithin, choline, and 6-7 grams of protein with high biological value. They are a complete food and a great ally to those who want to lose weight because they cause a feeling of satiety, while also having a high energy value.


In ancient Greece, the sea was a steady provider of much-treasured treats, such as eels, various types of rays, picarels, smelts, sardines, swordfish, mackerel, shrimps, crayfish, etc., which were caught using nets, harpoons with bronze hooks or snare nets. Ancient Greeks, in general, ate more fish than meat. References to fish can be found in the Homeric poems and in Aristophanes’ comedies. [89, 94, 98]

BENEFIT: Small fish such as anchovies, mackerel, sardine or trout are a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, PUFAs, which have anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as protect the arteries.

The ATTICA study on the Greek population has confirmed that olive oil has a strong anti-inflammatory effect similar to that found in medicines. [119] It also offers protective action against Alzheimer’s disease and boasts anticancer properties. Finally, it helps control skin aging. [120]


Honey cure

Honey, especially Greek honey, has both antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Daily consumption of honey, instead of white sugar, delays and prevents the development of insulin resistance. [121]


Ancient Greeks were very fond of fruits. Quince, pomegranate, arbutus berries, peaches, melons and grapes held a special place in their everyday life and diet. However, they had a soft spot for figs and particularly Attica figs, which were considered the best. Fruits were consumed fresh, baked or dried. [96]

BENEFIT: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals that help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart conditions, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. [103]

Wild Greens

Fresh vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, artichokes, courgettes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, turnips, celery, radishes, mushrooms, chicory, nettles, amaranth greens etc. were consumed as a salad in rural areas, while in the cities they were served cooked and seasoned. [1, 2, 3, 89, 94]

BENEFIT: These foods are rich in minerals and trace elements. They are particularly rich in E and C vitamins as well as omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acid. To be consumed without fear, any place and time we happen upon them!


Ancient Greeks believed that honey was the food of the gods. Its healing properties are even mentioned in the Odyssey when Ulysses offered milk, wine and honey to the dead to let him descend into Hades. [104]

BENEFIT: It has been proven that close to 180 high biological value elements are to be found in a single teaspoon of Greek honey. It seems to be superior in antioxidants even to the internationally known manuka. Chestnut and fir honey have a lower glycemic index than any other type of honey. [105]


Pulses were especially important for ancient Greeks and were consumed on an almost daily basis. [20] As with seafood, ancient Greeks were well aware of their nutritional value and were particularly keen to combine them with other foods. [1, 2, 3, 89, 94]


One of the first crops to have been cultivated by humans during the Neolithic age. Once termed the “food of the poor”, they nonetheless have a significant place in the Greek diet.


Greece is a timeless destination, known for its history, beautiful islands, and warm hospitality. But few know that the Greek diet and lifestyle, inspired by ageold traditions, has been proven to be one of the healthiest in the world.

Anna Maria Papiri, wellness editor with more than 30 years of experience in the field of wellness, and a multi-professional team of health experts, created a beginner’s guide to the Greek diet in line with current scientific evidence. In this book, you will learn about:

• The history of dietary and exercise habits from ancient Athens, Sparta and Minoan Crete to modern times

• The Ikaria phenomenon: The Greek Island, one of the world’s 5 Blue Zones, reveals the secrets of longevity

• Traditional Greek food and its amazing health benefits

• A 4-week meal plan based exclusively on traditional Greek foods to keep you fit

• 30 easy recipes, accompanied by their nutritional analysis to add color and vitality to your everyday

• A 2-week Greek Vegetarian meal plan and 10 additional delicious vegetarian recipes

• Detoxification, the Greek way: 10 foods that naturally detox and rejuvenate your body

• Learn how to live like a Greek: Beyond the diet, Greek lifestyle tips that bring health, happiness, and wellbeing

• Foods for happiness: Foods that boost your mood and make you feel happier

• New calisthenics: The combination of ancient Greek exercise with cardio guarantees a strong body and mental clarity

This book aims to spread the benefits of the Greek diet worldwide and help people understand and achieve the healthiest diet in the world as a foundation for a healthy and happy life!

ISBN: 978-618-5265-93-9

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