Pairing health with gastronomic tradition: the Aegean diet as a healthy dietary model

South Aegean, European Region of Gastronomy 2019 included the promotion of the Aegean diet as a healthy nutritional model among its main actions.

As part of the region’s Taste the Season programme and developed in cooperation with Harokopio University of Athens, the initiative aims to gather, record and evaluate scientific, cultural and historical data concerning the dietary practices of the communities inhabiting the Aegean area, in order to highlight the advantages of the Aegean diet in terms of well-being and health.

On 18 December 2017, an agreement was signed by South Aegean Regional Council which opened up a fruitful collaboration with Harokopio University, one of the worldwide leading research universities in the sector and partner of South Aegean since its designation as European Region of Gastronomy.

By investigating and collecting information on agricultural and food products, production methods, meal preparation and dietary habits of South Aegean’s population, the research will serve, first of all, to compile a database displaying the main features of the Aegean diet. Assessment and processing of these characteristics will allow then to develop a proper nutritional model.

In a second phase, a pilot study will be carried out on a sample of South Aegean’s dwellers in order to compare the population’s health indicators and dietary habits with the proposed model and identify the degree of compliance with the formulated standard.

The research will be coordinated by Professor in Nutrition – Dietetics at Harokopio University and Dean of the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Rutgers University of USA, Labros Sidossis, PhD and Scientific Associate of Harokopio University and Assistant Teaching Professor at Rutgers University, Glykeria Psarra, PhD.

According to the Regional Vice-Governor of South Aegean in charge of Primary Sector and Gastronomy, Philimon Zannetidis “our Region, through successfully claiming and winning the European Region of Gastronomy 2019 award, has set as an objective the worldwide recognition and dissemination of the Aegean gastronomy and of our local products, as well as the interconnection of the local production with tourism.” He affirmed that, through the collaboration with Harokopio University, “we seek to scientifically substantiate the Aegean diet’s beneficial effect as a multidimensional commodity, made up of the local island traditional products, the production methods, the special climatic and soil conditions, the dietary habits, the culture, the customs and traditions. We are certain that this will decisively contribute to the adoption of a healthier diet, which will bring back to our dietary routine the authentic elements of our gastronomic culture.”

The European Region of Gastronomy Platform and Award aim to contribute to better quality of life in European regions, by highlighting distinctive food cultures, educating for better health and sustainability and stimulating gastronomic innovation. IGCAT (International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism) organises the award with the support of European institutions.

IGCAT is a non-profit organisation established in 2012 working in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. Through its worldwide network of experts, IGCAT aims to empower local communities by guiding, facilitating, and supporting local leaders in cities, regions and cultural projects to understand the potential of their distinct food, culture, arts and sustainable tourism assets. IGCAT is the official secretariat for the Region of Gastronomy Platform and provides the European Region of Gastronomy Award, the European Young Chef Award and the Innovative Food Souvenir Award.