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A plant-based diet is a diet that focuses on foods that mostly comes from plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. And consumption of these foods has been shown to lower the risk of diseases and promote longevity  .
In fact, there are certain areas around the world where people have low rates of chronic diseases and live longer because they consume a wide variety of plant-based foods. These regions include Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy and Loma Linda, California .
A 2019 study showed that Greeks have a lower mortality rate from ischemic heart disease because they follow a Mediterranean diet which is based on the traditional Greek diet. The diet primarily consists of foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil .
There are some healthy Greek foods which are considered staples for the Greeks living in Ikaria. These foods play an important role in promoting longevity and lowering the risk of chronic diseases. Let's have a look at these healthy Greek foods.
1. Wild greens
Wild edible greens such as amaranth, arugula, bitter dock, blue mallow, borage, chervil, chicory, dandelion greens, mustard greens, purslane and nettle leaves to name a few are eaten by the Greeks. A study published in The British Journal of Nutrition showed that wild edible greens are eaten frequently by the Greeks in the form of salads and pies. These wild greens contain high concentrations of flavonoids which is higher than black tea or red wine .
Chickpeas are another staple food that forms a major part of the Greek diet. Chickpeas are loaded with nutrients such as dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, potassium and iron. Hummus is a popular and healthy dip that is spread across various cultures, including Greeks. Hummus is made by blending chickpeas with sesame seeds, olive oil and lemon juice.
Studies have shown that eating chickpeas and hummus may help prevent the development of several chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. It also aids in weight management and improves bowel health  .
3. Olive oil
Olive oil is an essential component of the Mediterranean diet and consuming it frequently is linked to several health benefits such as lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and several types of cancer  . Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which is linked to a lower heart disease mortality rate. Additionally, a higher intake of olive oil among individuals above 70 years of age has been shown to promote healthy ageing and longevity .
Honey is one of the most valued natural products because it has been used as a food and a medicine. Honey is loaded with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticancer properties all of which contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, gastrointestinal and neurological diseases .
5. Black-eyed peas
Black-eyed peas are an incredibly nutrient-dense food packed with fibre, protein, folate, magnesium, vitamin B, zinc, phosphorus and iron. Black-eyed peas are high in polyphenol antioxidants that prevent cell damage and protect against many diseases .
Potatoes are a good source of essential nutrients such as fibre, protein, vitamin B, vitamin C and potassium. Red or purple varieties of potatoes contain a high amount of polyphenol antioxidants which are responsible for many of their health benefits  .
7. Mediterranean herbs
Basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley and marjoram are some of the most common Mediterranean herbs used in Mediterranean dishes. Certain Mediterranean herbs have been studied for their anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-hyperlipidemic and anti-hypertensive properties .
A 2018 study showed that Mediterranean herbs have the ability to improve oral health .
Both lemon juice and lemon zest are used in Mediterranean dishes. Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, fibre and beneficial plant compounds, which are responsible for many of their health benefits such as improving digestive health, protecting against anaemia and lowering cancer and heart disease risk .
Coffee is another food that forms an essential part of the Greek diet. Coffee contains caffeine and several kinds of polyphenols. Studies have shown that frequent consumption of coffee has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and its risk factors, including obesity and type 2 diabetes .
The best thing about these healthy Greek foods is that they are widely available and you can easily add them to your daily diet. These foods are not only delicious but also healthy that will help reduce the risk of several diseases and help you lead a long, healthy life.