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Wisdom from Ancient Greece on Health and Happiness

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 incorporating healthy practices to attain harmonious health between the mind, body and spirit. It was not about radical weight loss or fitting into a certain outfit. 

My book, Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health, empowers people with the tools of how to cook intuitively using healing ingredients that harmonize your body and mind. Cooking and eating will become a time to celebrate, a time to deeply connect with yourself, a time to awaken to new experiences and to heal. I encourage people to explore and rediscover how to use nature for personal healing instead of solely relying on medicine. 
Below are five health and happiness tips culled from the wisdom of the ancient Greeks: 

1. Adopt a Mediterranean diet. 
As was inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi, “Nothing in excess." The Mediterranean diet is based on eating everything in moderation and to “let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food,” as Hippocrates said. The Mediterranean diet is high in fruit and vegetables, legumes, unrefined cereals, dairy products (mainly cheese, such as goat’s and sheep’s cheeses, and yogurt), and olive oil is the principal oil. Fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate quantities, and meat is eaten only occasionally. This diet focuses on a high healthy fat intake (olive oil, nuts and seeds) and a low intake of unhealthy fats (animal fats). Their intake of high energy food such as fruit and vegetables is greater than the intake of low energy foods such as meat, fish and poultry. Honey and grape must are the key sweeteners, and are preferred to white sugar. In ancient Greece there were many that were fruit eaters, vegan and vegetarians.

2. Cook with wholesome ingredients. 
Use ingredients that come from a place of “agapi” (Greek word for unconditional love). For me, this means local, certified organic and sustainable produce that's in season. Use good oils for your dishes. Some good sources of oils include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, and coconut oil. Avoid restaurants that use vegetable oils, canola oil/corn oil/cotton seed oil (these are usually genetically modified), peanut oil, hydrogenated oil and palm oil. 

Opt not to use ingredients riddled with chemicals and pesticides, or GMOs. The kind of energy emitted by chemicals and pesticides diminishes our spiritual energy and our ability to connect with ourselves. Chemicals, GMOs and pesticides alter the harmonious balance of the food and when consumed alter our inner balance and make us ill, both physically and emotionally. 

You should also consume probiotic foods such as Greek yogurt and fermented vegetables to ensure good gut health; they're called “probiotic” because they are “for life.” 

3. Adopt healthy and happy thoughts.  
Those who approached the Oracle at Delphi were encouraged to have “good thoughts”. An excess of unhappy thoughts can cause an imbalance in the body and lead to many illnesses. Inner balance and agapi cannot coexist with worry, stress, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety and competitiveness. These feelings or experiences do not create good feelings or good energy when cooking, eating or for our health. Ultimately, we are responsible for our health and well-being, so it's important to substitute fear with faith. 

4. 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. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and to lower blood pressure. 

5. Eat with peace and calm. 
Another important eating practice for good health and longevity is to eat with peace, calm and joy. It is important not to rush meal times. In Greece, people leave their work for lunch to go home and to enjoy the meal with their families and friends. When we rush our eating time it interrupts the harmony, the flow of energy and the time needed to enjoy a meal that in the end will nourish and heal our body and soul. 

To ensure a long, healthy life we all need to eat mindfully and to become aware of the food we eat. We also need to take note of how the food we are eating affects the way we feel. Eat for the purpose of nourishing, and eat clean ingredients free of chemicals and pesticides — just like they did in ancient Greece. Do things in life that make you happy to ensure a healthy, happy mind and thoughts; and, of course, get some moderate exercise daily.

Maria Benardis is a Gourmand Award winning author, health and wellness coach, teacher, chef and Founder of Greekalicious [www.greekalicious.nyc] Maria published her first book titled “My Greek Family Table” (Penguin), which won the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards – Best Mediterranean Cuisine Book in Australia 2009 and this was followed by her eBook, “A Greekalicious Feast”. She also recently published her new book “Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health” (Balboa Press) – How the Wisdom of Ancient Greece can lead to a longer Life. Maria appears on radio, television and the print media to enthusiastically share the Greek heritage, its food and healing wisdoms that create vibrant health, and a balanced and peaceful life. Visit her online at: www.mariabenardis.com

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