Greece will begin promoting its excellent food products in the future by promoting the “Greek Diet” brand across the world, Rural Development and Food Μinister Spilios Livanos, said in an interview in February.
During his interview with SKAI TV, the minister presented the main priorities of the new promotion, noting that the goal is to increase the popularity of the Mediterranean diet even further by subsidizing infrastructure, increasing exports, training farmers, and promoting the new brand globally.
Livanos also discussed the new European Union Common Agricultural Policy, which will bring 19.7 billion euros to Greece, and stressed the need for judicious investment in infrastructure.
“If we manage our investments in infrastructure soundly and increase production and exports, giving added value to our products, then we will have succeeded. If the money is spent on simple grants then we will have failed, as has been the case in previous decades,” Livanos explained.
“Our ally in this effort is the Recovery Fund,” he added, saying “The priority of the Ministry is the promotion, worldwide, of the Greek Diet brand. Greece has the privilege of producing excellent products.
Greek diet and food products must be connected to tourism
“These products must acquire an identity,” he emphasized. “They must acquire a branding as ‘the Greek diet.’ We have a wealth to consume ourselves and to consume it in large quantities as part of a healthy diet but also as a part of our culture, our tradition, and our history, which we must connect with our tourism,” he urged.
“Tourists can become the best ambassadors of the Greek diet,” he stated. “But we must understand, first of all, in our families, in our schools, that we must prefer Greek products, not out of nationalism, but because they are better in quality.
“The primary and secondary sector, which I have the honor to serve, is essentially the driving force for the Greek economy to start at another level,” Livanos explained. “But it must be linked to tourism, culture and our health policy. If we succeed and create this new framework, internally and then externally, I believe in a few years we will work miracles.”
“Mediterranean” diet the gold standard for promoting healthy lifestyle
As a rule, what has become globally known as the Mediterranean diet is plant-based, high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and unprocessed grains while low in meat and meat products (only a few times per month), and reduced consumption of dairy products.
These ingredients are bound together by olive oil, one of the essentials when it comes to defining the basics of the Mediterranean diet, and one of Greece’s premier exports.
Health benefits of a Greek diet
High in monounsaturated fatty acids, carotenoids, antioxidants, vitamin C, polyphenols as well as other vitamins and minerals, the oil is known as Greece’s “Green gold.”
Grains that are used in Greek cuisine are usually whole or in the form of bread or pasta cooked al dente, which lowers the glycemic index. Minimally processed foods, which are other hallmarks of Greek food, also provide prebiotic fiber, which promotes intestinal health.
According to several studies, the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Key ingredients of a Greek diet
As an integral part and expression of the local culture, the Mediterranean diet is mostly based on traditional home cooking, using local ingredients.
Olive trees have always been part of the Mediterranean region and are especially abundant in Greece. But the area has also been a point of convergence for many different cultures; this means that typical Mediterranean foods include native ingredients as well as those imported from long ago.
Olive oil is the common denominator in the different dietary patterns of the diet, with Italy, Spain and Greece being the top three producers in the world. Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in carotenoids and polyphenols, offering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Olive oil is the main source of fat in the diet, and it is also used for cooking and baking. Despite common beliefs, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil has a high smoke point because of its lower free fatty acid content.
Savory pies made with greens are key dishes in Greece and in other areas of the Mediterranean. Fennel, dandelion greens, rocket and chicory are just a few.
Of course, the nutritional composition varies between species; for example, darker greens are rich in carotenoids, vitamins C, magnesium, iron and calcium. Not all greens are equal in their flavonoid content, so variety in the diet is ideal. Greens are also a source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.
In North America, it is possible to find dandelion greens and purslane as well as other cultivated greens.
Alcohol was common in the traditional Mediterranean diet, but consumed in moderation and in the form of wine and, as a rule, during meals.
Red wine, in particular, contains antioxidant polyphenols and flavonoids. Wine helps increase HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.