This article first appeared in mindbodygreen.com and is written by Maria Benardis
The word “diet” comes from the ancient Greek diaita, which means “the way of life.” In ancient Greece, a diet was about good health and joyful eating, not radical weight loss.
The Mediterranean diet continues to receive attention due to its proven track record of good health and longevity. The goal of the diet is to “let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food,” as Hippocrates put it.
You don’t need to live in Greece to get the benefits of the Greek diet. Below are some simple guidelines, practiced by both the ancient Greeks and Greeks today.
1. Cook with wholesome ingredients.
For me, this means in-season, local, certified organic and sustainable produce that’s free of chemicals, pesticides and GMOs. Avoid processed foods and opt for quality over quantity.
Avoid “low fat”, “lite” and other similar foods, as these are usually loaded with sugar and chemicals.
2. Get your probiotics.
Consume probiotic foods such as Greek yogurt and fermented vegetables to ensure good gut health — they’re called “probiotic” because the ancient Greeks believed they were “for life”. Hippocrates believed that “all disease begins in the gut”.
3. Eat high vibrational foods and a rainbow of colors.
We’re all made of energy and therefore require the consumption of energy in the form of food, air and water for sustenance and good health. Eating high energy foods help us reach higher consciousness and peace to better connect with our higher source. This is one of the reasons why many ancient philosophers and healers were vegetarians.
Eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, legumes, filtered water, nuts and seeds, and drink herbal teas. Go easy on the low vibrational foods, such as animal protein, sugar, coffee, alcohol and white flour.
4. Everything in moderation, harmony and simplicity.
When combining ingredients or when seasoning a dish, always exercise moderation and balance to achieve harmony. Let each ingredient speak for itself. Too much of one ingredient can overpower the others so that you aren’t able to differentiate the flavors in the recipe. Plato believed that food should have simple flavors and wrote that “even sweets should sing with their simplicity”.
5. Have faith and gratitude.
You can achieve anything if you have belief, faith and gratitude. Any experience and time spent in the kitchen won’t be fruitful unless we have faith in what we cook. By letting go of your fears, worries or any controlling habits around food, cooking and eating will become more joyful.
6. Adopt healthy and happy thoughts.
Those who approached the Oracle at Delphi were encouraged to have “good thoughts.” Heraclitus said that “day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become.”
The ancient Greeks would practice affirmations to assist with this process. They believed that an excess of unhappy thoughts could cause an imbalance in the body and lead to many illnesses.
7. Engage in moderate exercise.
According to Hippocrates, “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
Incorporate at least half an hour exercise each day for good health and vitality.
8. Eat with peace and calm.
Another important eating practice for good health and longevity is to eat with peace, calm and joy. It’s important not to rush meal times and to chew food properly. When we rush our eating it interrupts the harmony, flow of energy and time needed to enjoy a meal.
To ensure a long, healthy life we need to eat mindfully, be aware of the food we eat and how it impacts the way we feel.
9. The most important ingredient is agapi.
Only food cooked and eaten with good energy and agapi (Greek for unconditional love) can truly nourish and heal our bodies and souls. If you put love in your cooking you will give love to yourself and others.
10. Know thyself AND love thyself.
When you connect with your inner self it will better guide you as to what to eat and when to eat. You’ll no longer feel guilty about eating certain foods or deprive yourself of the occasional treat.
When you love yourself, you treat yourself with love and are drawn to food that’s wholesome and good for you and the environment.
11. Be present.
Plutarch said, “The whole life of a man is but a point in time; let us enjoy it”. Be present and mindful of what you’re buying, cooking and eating.
Appreciate that your body is a temple and should be treated as such. Our decisions today pave the way and determine our health tomorrow.
Maria Benardis is an award-winning author, health coach, teacher, chef and founder of Greekalicious, Sydney’s first exclusively Greek cooking school.