CULTURE

Doctor updates the Greek diet

«Food is medicine,» says Dr Fedon Alexander Lindberg, whose new book, «The Greek Doctor’s Diet,» just out from Rodale, shows how eating well and taking moderate exercise can keep us healthy. Born in Athens, Lindberg grew up with the good things in the Greek lifestyle, including the food, but also inherited his family’s predisposition to Type II (late-onset) diabetes. Determined to forestall the onset of the disease, he studied internal medicine and endocrine disorders and now runs successful clinics in Norway where patients receive multidisciplinary treatment for lifestyle disorders. His book is for the ordinary person who either wants to avoid diabetes, heart disease and insulin resistance syndrome or who simply wants to stay fit and healthy. Secret is balance The secret, says Lindberg, is to eat the right quantities of the right foods: «The right carbohydrates, coupled with the right quality and quantity of proteins will allow your body to reach a healthy balance. I soon realized that this was one of the most important milestones in modern nutrition. Used correctly, this nutritional principle can prevent obesity and help overweight and obese people achieve gradual weight loss and better health. Diabetics can stabilize their insulin and blood-sugar levels, at the same time as losing weight and feeling great.» His method is based on the Glycaemic Index (GI) or Load (GL). «Using the GI and GL principles can help to control blood pressure or even eliminate high blood pressure completely, and prevent cardiovascular disease,» writes Lindberg. «And eating foods that have low GL can increase metabolic rate and improve overall performance – endurance performance, or stamina, in particular.» Citing Hippocrates – «Let food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food» – Lindberg explains how we can eat our way to health, with three meals and two snacks a day. «This is not a quick-fix diet but a nutritional concept you can and should follow for the rest of your life.» «The Greek Doctor’s Diet» explains the science behind his method in accessible language. It demonstrates why fad diets don’t work and how constant dieting can actually lead to weight gain. It is a practical approach – there’s no weighing and calorie counting but a no-nonsense system of palm-sized servings that is easy to master. And nothing is banned: «I’m being realistic,» says Lindberg, who loves good food. He also offers recipes, a four-week menu plan and a serious bibliography for readers who wish to delve further into the science. Kathimerini English Edition asked Lindberg about the Greek doctor’s diet. Dr Lindberg, «The Greek Doctor’s Diet» targets people who want to avoid diabetes, heart disease, and insulin resistance. How do you think it will appeal to people who want a healthy diet in general? Insulin resistance affects 30-40 percent of the general population in Western countries, more so in the Southern Mediterranean and Middle East and up to 80 percent of people from the Indian Subcontinent, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Africans south of the Sahara. Since most people genetically predisposed do not necessarily know if they are affected until it is too late, it would be wise to prevent at an early stage. Since a low-glycaemic, balanced diet shows substantial health advantages, without side effects, it would be a wise choice for the population in general. And how do you think it will appeal to the Greeks whose eating habits inspired it? The traditional Greek diet was one of the healthiest in the world. That is unfortunately not the case with the modern Greek diet, especially after the effects of globalization, with an explosion in fast food and processed food having replaced much of the traditional staple Greek foods. In many ways, it is about going back to the basics of the traditional Cretan diet, but in a revised form, since modern Greeks are not as physically active as they were 50 years ago and therefore do not need as much energy from carbohydrates or fat. My book is also available in Greek from Kedros Publishers, titled «Isoglykaimiki Diatrofi,» released in November 2004. Better choices You stress the need to eat – or not eat – foods in certain combinations. How practical is this for busy people who don’t always have time to cook at home? Following the concept described in the book is almost ridiculously easy, using the palm of hand and plate model method. It is all about becoming more aware and making better choices. Nobody expects people to become fanatics or perfect, but even small improvements will have great positive health repercussions. The recipes in your book use rather a lot of meat and eggs. What suggestions do you have for people who can’t or don’t want to eat large quantities of meat and eggs? I do not recommend large quantities of meat, but less starch and sugars compared to protein-rich foods and more vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts and olive oil. Protein-rich foods include lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood, low-fat dairy products but also soybean alternatives. Lentils, beans and nuts are also good sources of protein and low-glycaemic, slow carbohydrates. Your clinic in Norway offers multidisciplinary treatment for degenerative disorders. Can you tell us something about that? We have in fact four clinics in Norway with 12,000 patients. ‘A sick-care system’ There is a huge market for books on healthy eating and living, yet public health is deteriorating, with obesity hitting record levels in most countries. Why is this and what can be done about it? Because financial resources are allocated toward treating illnesses after they occur, putting out the fire, rather than preventing them from occurring. We do not have a healthcare system, but a sick-care system. There are huge financial interests within the pharmaceutical industry that lobby to ensure that most money is allocated to treatment rather than prevention. In addition, modern urban life does not promote healthy living, and we are flooded by tasty, easy-to-use, cheap processed food, while we do not need to be physically active any longer in our daily lives. We should turn more to Hygieia than Asclepius for help, but not only in festive political speeches. An ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure… For more information please visit http://www.fedon.no/page/index.php?structid=168&joinid=-1&parentid=166.