Greek Diet: Its course in time

The eating habits of the populations vary and change over the years. Many factors determine a person’s dietary choices such as:
  • Food availability
  • Fashion trends
  • Social and economic factors
  • Educational level
  • Eating trends depending on health issues
  1. The discovery and use of fire
  2. The domestication and systematic production of plant and animal species
  3. The industrial revolution

Depending on the geographical location and the availability of the raw material, the habits and the attitude of the population towards the food were determined.

Diet in Ancient Greece

For the ancient Greeks the meals of the day were three: akratismos (barley bread dipped in wine (akratos), accompanied by figs or olives), ariston (lunch) and dinner. In these there may sometimes have been an extra light meal (espresso) late in the afternoon. Finally dinner was a regular meal that could be served late in the afternoon at the dinner place. In Greek antiquity, in addition to the daily dinner (dinner) there was also the dinner with friends or acquaintances called “banquet” which today is called banquet. The main agricultural products of ancient Greece were barley, wheat, wine, oil and olives. The Athenians were the most famous for their oligophagy, which is why the expression “attic life” came out. In general, the ancients were dieters, which is why they were called “micro-banks” and “leaf eaters”.

The diet in the 19th and 20th century

The 19th century is characterized by a significant development of science and technology. At the same time, the mechanization of agriculture, the creation of new and improved varieties of plants and animal breeds, and the evolution of the food industry, contributed to the upgrading of the quality, quantity and variety of goods used by man for his food. At the beginning of the 20th century, the science of nutrition began to exist timidly with rapid growth over the years.

Many fascinating and important advances in the knowledge of nutrition were made between 1910 and 1960, especially the discovery of specific nutrients and their biochemical relationship to human health. The creation of the famous “Functional Food” but also the discovery of the Superfoods of our ancestors belong to this era. During this time, scientists learned that without vitamin C, people would get scurvy. No vitamin A, nocturnal. Vitamin D deficiencies lead to rickets in children, thiamine deficiencies in beri beri, niacin deficiencies in pellagra, and calcium deficiencies in poor bone growth in children and osteoporosis in later life. Iron deficiency leads to anemia, iodine deficiency leads to goiter, and zinc deficiency to imperfect development in children. These conditions are now known in the science of nutrition today, and have led to the conclusion that diet directly and in various ways affects health.

In the context of the study of human eating habits, the Greek diet is traced more and more deeply in time, in the testimonies that come to light in recent years with the excavations throughout Greece. The Hellenistic times with the spread of Hellenism in the East will bring changes in the field of cooking and products, while the Mediterranean diet will be enriched with new flavors.

In a society such as the traditional rural society before 1960, with limited economic relations, the consumption of goods is mainly limited to self-sufficiency and exchange. It is little affected by trade and traded goods. This happens on a sufficient scale in urban centers or in areas that have weekly or annual markets (fairs – bazaars). Production in the case of rural settlements is the backbone of the eating habits of the population. Soil conditions and climate also have a direct effect not only on production but also on human diet, because the requirements of the organism vary from region to region.

Food and health

The issue of nutrition is directly related to the health and morbidity of the population and especially of the youth, when in fact it participates in the production. Inadequate and often inappropriate food overwhelms the body and leads to morbid conditions. According to dietitians, who mainly dealt with the issue of adequacy or inadequacy of nutrition of the Greek population during the decades 1930-1960, the Greeks show extremely great conservatism in matters of nutrition, which in fact reaches the limits of reactivity. In 1944 Sokr. Kalogerasas emphasizes the lack of a competent state service, “National Nutrition Committee”, which deals with the issues of nutrition of the people, and underlines that the efficiency of the Greek worker is reduced due to the lack of nutrition.

In fact, the effect of diet is not only direct for the performance of work but also indirect due to diseases that are mainly due to poor nutrition. Bronchitis, tuberculosis, diseases of the poor, as they were commonly called, are directly related to diet. The effect of malaria, which is also associated with malnutrition, was enormous for our country.

In general, at least until 1970, the diet of farmers is monotonous and defective, poor in albums, salts and vitamins. There are also periodic changes depending on the production. The worst feeding occurs in the spring, shortly before harvest, when stocks run out. This is followed by a short period of abundance after harvest and then a long period of malnutrition.

Mediterranean diet

Through a multitude of scientific studies, the Mediterranean Diet is characterized as the best diet in the world and especially the Traditional Greek Diet is the one that “gets” the praise. The Greek traditional diet is an expression of our history and cultural heritage. Characterized by:

  • High consumption of products of plant origin, such as: fruits and vegetables, greens, legumes, unprocessed cereals, including bread.
  • Moderate to high consumption of fish and seafood, depending on the distance from the sea.
  • Moderate to low consumption: Milk and dairy products, Poultry and Eggs
  • Low consumption of red meat and its products (eg, cold cuts).
  • Use of olive oil, which is central to the traditional Mediterranean diet and is the primary source of added oil.
  • Moderate daily consumption of wine with meals.

In addition, regular physical activity is traditionally an integral part of the Greek way of life. The Greek traditional diet is associated with beneficial effects on health, which seem to be due not to the properties of its individual characteristics (food), but to the overall compliance with the standard. Adherence to all its characteristics has been found to prevent chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular, diabetes and cancer, while it has been associated with increased life expectancy and longevity. Characteristic of the Greek traditional diet is fasting, as defined from the tradition of the Orthodox Church. Recent scientific data show that adherence to the rules of fasting (avoiding meat, dairy products and eggs) in the prescribed periods (a total of 180-200 days a year), has beneficial effects on health, as it helps reduce blood cholesterol (bad cholesterol – LDL) and reduces the risk of obesity.

Diet Today

Nowadays, the modern way of life has removed a significant percentage of the population from the traditional standard of the Greek diet, which has been largely replaced by fast food choices and a sedentary lifestyle. Given the beneficial effects of the Greek traditional diet in maintaining and promoting health and its compatibility with the eating habits and tradition of the Greeks, it is necessary to protect and reintegrate it into our daily lives.

The Future of Nutrition

As the science of nutrition evolves, consumers and scientists may realize the importance of “traditional” vitamins and minerals in the fight against heart disease and cancer and the Mediterranean diet as a complete diet, which does not result in good nutritional deficiencies but . However, a new movement is taking place in the area of ‚Äč‚Äčnutrition and this is the new way of thinking, the “second Golden Age of Nutrition” that wants to include in our diet the wide range of plant ingredients called phytochemicals which are chemical components of plants ( The latest research in phytochemicals holds great promise, and according to the scientists who study them, these plant ingredients can support our health in more ways than we can imagine, than delaying the aging process and strengthen our immune system against disease, even reversing chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

In recent decades, international interest in the so-called national foods has increased and the relevant literature, scientific and amateur, is massive. Internationally, the diet is of interest in terms of health by regions and its use in terms of tourism. Particularly in Greece the interest has been focused mainly on the collection of material for basic products and preparations, which can be used in modern cuisine and in the promotion of local food, which emphasize the uniqueness of local food codes: Cretan cuisine, political cuisine, Pontian cuisine, etc. Also, food items can be displayed that emphasize the uniqueness of the worship habits in relation to the diet: fasting, Easter, Christmas, etc.

As for the presence or disappearance-abandonment of eating habits, exactly what is theoretically true for all cultural goods: Survival, the direct passage from the past to the present, was done for the items that are considered basic, such as bread, oil , pasta, cheese, calm. After all, this survival is directly related to the continuity of a people’s life and is transmitted from generation to generation by the elements that are carried away by the constantly changing economic and social conditions, the constant coordinates of a more or less stable ecological environment.

The elements that determine it

The elements that have been accompanied during their historical course by economic, social, technological factors, etc. are the variables that are inactive or activated depending on the respective conditions (prosperity, hunger, wars), without these cases being a revival of specific habits.

Through the process of nutrition, man survives, socializes, maintains good health, expresses himself psychologically, finds a way of expression and feels a variety of emotions with psychological and physical influences.

The fast pace of our time is expected to affect the way we eat. Even the economic situation and the pandemic affect our food choices and expand our health. Especially after 2 years of pandemic due to Covid, unfortunately the percentages of overweight and obese people in our country have increased. It is more important than ever to adopt a proper diet, based on the traditional Mediterranean diet in order to improve the indicators of physical and mental health. {}

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