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GreekReporter.comAustraliaThe Greek Paradox: Why Do First Generation Greek-Australians Live Longer?

The Greek Paradox: Why Do First Generation Greek-Australians Live Longer?

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Greek-Australians marching in the Australia Day parade in Melbourne. Credit: Chris Phutully, CC BY 2.0

Scottish-Australian physician Norman Swan has made a complex discovery recently. 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 two to three times more likely to be obese, have high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure than Anglo-Australians. Despite this, they are thirty-five percent 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 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 that’s only one aspect of why these members of the Greek diaspora live longer. There are other key factors listed by Swan.

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 in 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 such as 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.

Religious Fasting

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 being a vegan diet. Cutting these out of your diet twice a week on Monday and Thursday could be a healthy boost to your routine.

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