Scottish-Australian physician Norman Swan has made a complex discovery. Swan found that Greek-Australians, despite subscribing to potentially life threatening practices and diets, have the second highest life expectancy behind the Japanese. Swan dubbed this situation “the Greek Paradox” in his new book So You Think You Know What’s Good for You?
Greek-Australians are 2 to 3 times more likely to be obese, have high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure than Anglo Australians. Despite this they are 35% less likely to succumb to heart disease. Their risk of developing cancer is lower as well.
Greek-Australian’s Mediterranean lifestyle explains “The Greek Paradox”
Swan says the explanation for these figures has a lot to do with Greek-Australian’s heritage. When Greek migrants came to Australia, their diets and lifestyles adjusted, and they began to eat high calorie and high saturated fats. But as they got older, this group came back to their Greek Orthodox roots, and started to eat according to the “Mediterranean diet.” But Swan says thats only one aspect of why these members of the Greek diaspora live longer. Here are the other key factors Swan lists:
Eating and cooking at home
Swan notes that home cooking is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, especially with fresh ingredients. These meals traditionally take place with a group around the dinner table, rather than individually in separate rooms. Swan says that these factors allow one to consider their ingredients and portions more wisely.
Flavorful, slow cooking
The skillful use of garlic, onions, spice, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil into one’s diet helps your body fight long-term cancer as well as mitigate inflammation.
Chop your vegetables and don’t be afraid of olive oil and vinegar
Breaking down vegetables into smaller chunks and saturating them with dressings like olive oil and vinegar help to free micronutrients called polyphenols. Red vegetables are an especially fecund source of antioxidants like beta carotene and lycopene.
Use plenty of garlic, shallots, chives, and onions
These ingredients hail from the Allium family and are packed with sulphur compounds– a key defense against cancer.
Take the time to nap after meals
Research has found that short naps after meals contribute to lower blood pressure and decreased heart disease. These small breaks are known as ‘siestas’ and originate from Spanish culture but have become widespread across the Mediterranean.
A crucial factor of the research Swan is citing has found that Greek-Australians pivot back to their traditional Greek Orthodox faith as they get older. Greek Orthodoxy has a large amount of fasting periods in its calendar, many of which do not allow meat, fish, or dairy– effectively a vegan diet. Cutting these out of your diet twice a week on Monday and Thursday could be a healthy boost to your routine.