The Cretan diet is a very well known dietary model. The Cretan diet was researched immediately after the Second World War when the longevity of Cretans was first observed because Cretans had the lowest mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease. Recent studies verified these facts.
The climate in the area helps the growth of olive trees, vines and fruit trees. Wild and cultivated greens always held a special place in Cretan cuisine as did a few glasses of wine. Legumes, vegetables, grains, fish, free range meat, dairy products, honey and beverages made of mountainous herbs are the basis of this diet.
To this day, especially in the villages, Cretans have small or large vegetable patch (called Bostani) that cover their family's needs and many have rabbits as well. Almost every family has its own olive grove and probably some orange trees as well. It must however be mentioned that the geomorphology of the island and the population's agricultural synthesis, up to some decades ago, forced locals to difficult manual labor. In antithesis with urban cultures where a more immobile lifestyle is the norm, the Cretan are always in motion.
Cretan cuisine used olive oil as it only fatty source. Recent studies show that today Cretans consume an average of 25 liters of olive oil per person per year, a number that far exceeds the consumption of olive oil anywhere in the world.
Important steps have been taken in the area of organic farming. Many larger and smaller producers are realizing the importance of this upgrade in quality and are mainly producing certified organic olive oil. Similarly the cultivation of organic citrus fruit, vines and vegetables is beginning to thrive.
The cooking process has always been an equally important part of the Cretan diet. The ritual sometimes begins early in the morning so that lunch is ready on time because the Cretan homemakers do believe that food should not be hurried.
The dishes of Cretan gastronomy are countless: Snails boiled or fried with vinegar and rosemary, Squid with fennel and olives, Stamnagathi (greens) with lamb, pilaf and a traditional Easter meat pie, avronies (greens) with eggs, chestnut stew that is equally good as rabbit stew, pies with greens, cheeses like Myzithra and Malaka in the oven or fried, fried or grilled mushrooms, pork tenderloin smokes with sage (apaki) and all kinds of fish and seafood.
Cheese products have a very special place at the table. Thousands of free range sheep and goats produce milk of the highest quality that producers use to produce excellent cheeses like graviera, anthotyro, myzithra, staka, tyromalama and yogurt that is often served with thyme honey. Naturally, bread is a big part of the Cretan diet. Traditionally it was made at home. Rusks made from wheat, barley, a mixture of both or multigrain (called Eptazimo) is also very important on the Cretan table.
Wine is always present on the Cretan table. The basic traditional variety, Romeiko, gives an alcoholic red wine with a very interesting taste. It is often enriched with other varieties like Kotsifali, Moschato, Liatico and others. The antioxidant qualities of wine are also a strong contributing factor to the longevity of the Cretans.
Let us also not forget desert as well as the welcome drink in Crete which is no other than the traditional distillation product called Tsikoudia (or Raki).