The Secret of Longevity on the Greek Island of Ikaria

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Screen shot 2012 11 01 at 10.21.49 AM The Secret of Longevity on the Greek Island of IkariaThe New York Times recently described the isolated island of Ikaria as the island where people forget to die. One out of three Ikarians live past the age of 90, and researchers have identified several reasons for this: genetics, strong family networks, an unusual concept of time, naps, and diet. When arriving on the island, you notice that people here “take it easy.” In fact, their stores open after 11 am. They take naps and follow the traditional Greek diet that served as the prototype for the Mediterranean diet. They consume plenty of olive oil, vegetable dishes as main courses, wild plants, and very little meat and sweets.Their habits basically reflect the lifestyle in Greece 50 years ago.

By Elena Paravantes, RD

Soufiko: An Ikarian Vegetarian Main Course


  • 2 large eggplants
  • 3-4 zucchini
  • 2 potatoes
  • 4 green peppers
  • 4 onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup strong red wine
  • ½- ¾ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Chop the eggplants and pepper into one inch pieces.
  2. Cut the potato and zucchini in round slices.
  3. Roughly chop the tomato, onion and the garlic.
  4. In about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil sauté the eggplant, then the onion and garlic. Once the garlic starts to become fragrant, add the rest of the vegetables and let them cook in their own juices for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add the glass of wine and let the mixture simmer until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add ¼ cup olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
  6. Let the dish sit for a few minutes.
  7. Enjoy warm or cold with some feta cheese.

Elena Paravantes is an award winning Registered Dietitian, writer and expert on the Mediterranean Diet. Active in the field of food and nutrition for over 15 years as a clinical dietitian, she is a food and nutrition consultant, writer, teacher and lecturer, both in the US and in Greece. Elena firmly believes in the wide-ranging health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and is committed to educating the public about the wholesome food plan she grew up with through her writing, teaching and lecturing. Her blog is at

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