Fitter, happier, more productive—eating the Hellenic way

Extensive studies have shown that Greeks on a traditional diet have dramatically lower incidences of heart disease and cancer compared to the U.S., and, on the island of Crete at least, the highest adult life expectancy in the world. And they get more than one-third of their calories from olive oil. Using traditional Greek foodways as a model, in the 1990s, several organizations, spearheaded by two Greek nutrition scientists, devised what we now call the Mediterranean Diet.

Just like the Ancient Greeks did, the Mediterranean Diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, seafood, lean meat, and above all, plenty of olive oil (and other good-for-you unsaturated fats)—plus wine, though in less than Dionysian quantities. Now, scientists can’t seem to stop coming out with fresh studies about all that the Diet can do.

If you’re a regular Sun Basket customer, you’re already following the Mediterranean Diet to some extent. It’s the inspiration for many of our meals. Because it’s one of the most inclusive of diets, embracing meat, dairy, and wheat products, it has broad appeal and is easy to follow. Sun Basket’s staff nutritionist Kaley Todd is a fan. “It’s the best of both worlds,” she says. “The flavors are amazing, and the health benefits are measurable. It’s one of the best examples of how nutritious food can also be delicious.” Here she shares five favorite recent studies that underline just how right the Ancient Greeks were. 

Five Surprising Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

1. Aging
A landmark study of American female nurses found that those on the Mediterranean Diet in middle age were about 40% more likely to live past 70, free of any of 11 chronic illnesses diseases, including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and many cancers.

2. Brain Health
Australian researchers recently found that the Mediterranean Diet is associated with lower rates of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The diet even improves ordinary cognitive functioning: those on the diet also showed better memory and executive functioning, such as reasoning and planning.

3. Breast Cancer
In one of the largest studies, scientists analyzed the eating patterns of more than 4,200 women in Spain, and found that those consuming a Mediterranean diet were 62% less likely to get breast cancer than those following a standard low-fat diet.  

4. Heart Disease
One European study followed more than 2,500 Greek adults for over a decade, tracking their medical records, lifestyle habits, and eating patterns. Those who most closely followed the Mediterranean Diet were a whopping 47% less likely to get heart disease, regardless of their smoking habits, age, family history, or other lifestyle factors.

5. Weight Management
It’s a common misconception that high-fat diets lead to weight gain. Results from one major study show that those following a Mediterranean diet lost significantly more weight than those who ate a low-fat diet.