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Tradition versus globalization:
the case of the Greek diet

Nutritional investigations have provided strong support that the Greek diet (which adheres to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet) is associated with longer survival. This could be partly attributed to Mediterranean traditional foods, many of which have the attributes of the so called functional foods.

There is a need to study traditional foods in order to enrich and improve our diet and at the same time preserve important elements of our cultural inheritance. Our research team has implemented several research projects, with the objective to formulate a framework for the systematic investigation of traditional foods and recipes, aiming primarily at the elucidation of the role of traditional Greek diet on health.
The study of traditional foods is multifaceted and includes:
        Determination of the nutrient and non-nutrient value of
        primary and composite traditional foods.
        Recording of the traditional production methods with audio-
        visual means.
        Technological study on their potential industrial or semi-
        industrial production.
        Formation of integrated records related to their traditional
        character, which may serve as identification files for
        potential use in proprietary claims.
        Historical and folkloric review, which documents their
        traditional identity.
We present some highlights of traditional foods studied:
Pasteli (sesame bar): Compared to snacks with similar energy value, pasteli has a higher protein and dietary fiber content and in spite of its high proportion of lipids, cholesterol is absent and saturated lipids are low.
Green peas: In recipes, where the only added lipid was extra vigin olive oil, 55% of the food's energy value derived solely from olive oil. Moreover, edible greens provide significant amounts of antioxidants.
In conclusion, the study of traditional Greek diet provided evidence of its beneficial effects on health, indicating that it meets current criteria for a prudent diet. The registration and standardization of traditional foods could provide incentive for their reinstatement into the daily diet.

Effie Vasilopoulou, Antonia Trichopoulou
University of Athens, Greece



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