Nowadays, modern dietetics considers the Cretan diet as a type
of diet that promotes a healthy and long life.
It has been established both by scientific research as well as
by the residents of the island themselves that people on Crete hold
the lowest mortality rates in general as well as the lowest
mortality rates due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer on a word
scale. This fact has triggered a research into the characteristics
of this type of nutrition, to which the people onCreteowe their
Very soon, it became evident that this matter goes back a very
long time ago. It is not the result of the study conducted by some
scientists but a biological experiment that lasts several thousand
of years! The history of Cretan nutrition dates back a long time
ago, even before the Neolithic age.
Findings of archaeological excavations have confirmed the fact
ancient Cretans consumed more or less the same products as modern
Cretans. Inside palaces of the Minoan age, archaeologists found
large jars for the storage of olive oil, legumes, wine and honey.
Also, the magnificent world of Cretan plants and herbs is depicted
in various iconographic records.
Atheneus, Greek author of the Roman age, mentions two
exceptionally complicated and delicious sweets made in
ancientCretewith petimezi (grape syrup) and honey, dried fruit,
sesame and poppy seeds.
Conquerors succeeded one another inCretebut no one could alter
the soul, the religion, the language of the people and … their
This culinary continuity created a tradition which today is
proven precious, since the international scientific community
speaks not only of the cuisine but also of the miracle of the
The international scientific community conducts discussions and
is constantly in search of the ideal diet that will promote health
and prevent illnesses. Since ancient times, the traditional Cretan
diet seems to gather all the characteristics that make it ideal.
This is also the result of a study conducted by 7 countries, which
began in 1960and continues until today. This study consists of the
follow-up through the years of a group of approximately 700 men
from an agricultural region ofCrete. The results of this study show
that this population manifested the least number of deaths due to
heart attack and various types of cancer compared to people from
other developed countries. The population fromCretelived the
longest compared to populations from other developed countries.
It is worth mentioning that in 1991, when scientists from the
Social Medicine Sector of the Universityof Creteundertook the
pre-examination of the elderly population in the 31st
year of the study, those who had survived was 50% of the initial
population in Crete whereas inFinland none of the population had
The excellent health and longevity of Cretans is attributed to
their traditional nutrition. This type of nutrition is simple and
cinsists mostly of olive oil, which accounted for approximately one
third of daily energy intake per person, whereas the largest part
of energy came from cereals, mostly bread, legumes, vegetables,
fruit ald less frequently from small quantities of eggs, cheese,
milk, meat, fish and a little red wine with every
Cretans still prefer to use natural and unprocessed products in
their diet and this is also the case for most taverns and
restaurants where Cretan traditional recipes are preferred.
For Cretans, the secret to good health and long life is simple,
quite simple really. They will eat whatever their rich land will
produce, namely lots of fruit, vegetables, herbs, greens, legumes,
cheeses, pasta and bread. They season their food with excellent
aromatic herbs, they make pastries with natural sweeteners such as
honey and grape syrup and accompany their meals with excellent
local wine and delicious traditional kneaded bread.
They do not eat meat often or at least, they did not use to a
few decades ago. The consumption of meat used to be linked to
religious events. In recent years, they would eat meat a few times
a year during important celebrations or, if they could afford it,
they would have meat every Sunday.
Human ingenuity helped in making endless combinations and today
there is an enormous number of recipes of exquisite dishes. Another
characteristic of Cretan cuisine is the variety of dishes, none of
which monopolizes taste but when combined they make a delicious
Visitors in Crete must definitely taste local cuisine. They will
discover that it is light, delicious and even more interesting and
fascinating than typical Greek cuisine.
Hors d'oeuvressuch as dakos (Cretan bread rusk with tomato sauce
spread, olive oil and soft myzithra cheese), cheese with honey,
Sfakia pies, (thin fried pastry filled with soft myzithra cheese),
kalitsounia pastries with herbs or soft myzithra cheese, fried
snales in sauce (or casserole with courgettes and garlic), staka
cheese, dolmathakia (stuffed grapevine leaves with rice), rabbit
casserole with onions, boureki (courgettes with soft myzithra
cheese), Sfakia yahni (meat stew with onions), sfougato (courgettes
with eggs), yuvetsi (lamb baked in tomato sauce, various meat pies,
lamb with artichokes, chicken with okra or homemade noodles
and many other dishes will remain unforgettable for anyone who
The most important dietary element is olive oil, which for
Cretans as well as for all the people of
theMediterraneanconstitutes the basic sourse of fat. Especially
inCrete, 120 gr of olive oil is consumed daily whereas in every
other part of the world no more than 30 gr of olive oil is consumed
on a daily basis.
Olive oil is basic for the nutrition inCreteand more
particularly, in the area of Kissamos. It is used in most dishes,
substituting butter or other types of edible oil that are used in
other parts of the world. The nutritional value of olive oil is
enormous given the fact that it constitutes the most powerful
natural anti-oxidant, which protects the human body from oxidation
and the development of free radicals which cause serious
The Mediterranean climate and the good constitution of soil in
Crete allows olive trees not only to grow everywhere, on plains as
well as mountainous areas, and to produce the best possible quality
of olive oil, with low acidity and fabulous aroma. The fact that
Cretans live longer and have the lowest rate of diseases seems to
be directly linked to the fact that they are also the largest
consumers of olive oil on a world scale.
"…Olive oil, compared to edible seed oil, is rich in
mono-saturated fatty acids which are resistant to oxidation and
reduce LDL cholesterol whithout affecting HDL cholesterol, which
protects fron atherosclerosis… Olive oil is also rich in
anti-oxidant substances such as tocopheroles and hydroxyphenoles,
which protect not only fron atherosclerosis but also from various
forms of cancer by blocking free toxic radicals. It is worth
mentioning that the constitution of olive oil in fatty acids is
similar to the one of maternal milk…" Antonis Kafatos,
Professor of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition, University of
The Kissamos cuisine is based on:
1.The finest quality olive oil (it is famous for its low acidity
and distinct aroma).
2. The outdoor organic garden products (tomatoes, cucumbers,
peppers, vegetables, etc.).
3. The wild herbs, that are plenty on the slopes and beaches of
the area (stamnagathi, askrorlympoi, petrofyllies, akournopodoi,
lagoudochorto, vrovioi, radykia, avronies etc.) which are
consumed raw or cooked.
4. The aromatic, medicinal, apiarian plants (oregano, thrympa,
thyme, stamatochorto, malotyra etc.) used either as a drink,
5. The meat from free range sheep and goats, as well as ,chickens
and rabbits and, pork etc.
6. The snails of the mountain and the sea.
7. The fish and various seafood from the area (famous salad sea
8. The products produced by bakeries and crafts of the area.
Rusks, bread, cookies, olive bread, etc. are made.
9. Pasta and traditional products from the housewives and the
small industries of Kissamos (hilopites, xinochontros, kalitsounia,
spoon sweets, xerotigana etc.)
10. The wine and raki from local grape varieties of excellent
quality in the area (the local wine is famous from the Minoan