"The Omega Diet" author Dr. Artemis Simopoulos and Cat Cora of Iron Chef fame led a culinary team to Capitol Hill on December 4, 2013 and shared the secrets to good health and great flavor of the Greek Mediterranean diet. Information, food and friendship were served in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office building to more than 400 people, who attended the event.
The Embassy of Greece, in co-operation with the Offices of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), vice-chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) co-chairs of the Hellenic Caucus, presented this extraordinary event that aimed to raise awareness of the health benefits of the Greek diet, and promote stronger trade relationships in healthy food products between the United States and Greece. Emcee for the event was former CBS & ABC news anchor and Mediterranean foodie, Thalia Assuras.
"Ancient Greeks, including the world's first Olympic athletes, recognized the benefits of healthy eating and exercise," said Ambassador of Greece, Christos Panagopoulos. "Their wisdom has lasted through the ages, and on this special occasion a new contemporary twist will be given by some of America's brightest scientists and chefs."
The culinary contingent also included renowned chefs and health experts from Greece and the United States:
Maria Loi, representative of Chef's Club of Creece, USA branch;
Diane Kochilas in collaboration with Zaytinya Restaurant and supported by the Daughters of Penelope;
Argiro Barbarigou in collaboration with Mourayo restaurant;
Michael Costa, head chef of Zaytinya;
Mike Isabella and George Pagonis of Kapnos restaurant; and
Katerina Stai specialist on "Greek Healthy Recipes for Children."
Celebrity chef Cat Cora, a participant in Michele Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative prepared some of her creations on-site, and offered remarks on behalf of the first lady's campaign. Cora is a key member of the initiative's "Chefs Move to Schools" component that advises parents to make nutrition education a priority at home.
"It's crucial for good health and longevity to instill in children sound eating habits from an early age," Cora said. But she added, "The Greek Mediterranean Diet is not just good for you – it's good food. The rich flavors and high fat content make it a consistent crowd pleaser."
The critical ingredients of the Greek diet include olive oil – dubbed the "natural salad dressing" and a fundamental staple of the Greek diet - whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt), seafood and more white meat than red. Combined with an active life style, the traditional Greek diet promotes longevity, boosts the immune system, and reduces the likelihood of obesity and chronic diseases.
"The traditional nutritional habits of Greece, as exemplified by the diet on the island of Crete, restore our body's essential nutritional 'good fats' and influence every aspect of our being, from the beating of our hearts to our ability to learn to remember," said Dr. Simopoulos, former chair of the National Institutes of Health's Nutrition Coordinating Committee, who will present her findings. "This event will show that eating healthier doesn't mean sacrificing flavor. The Greek Mediterranean Diet can play a big role in promoting a healthier lifestyle."
The Greek Diet has been inscribed on UNESCO's representative list of the "Intagible Cultural Heritage of Humanity," recognized on November 17, 2010, as part of the Mediterranean diet, but also "as a great contribution to the World, for the population's health, quality of life and well being."
The Rayburn foyer was transformed into a Greek Mediterranean festival of feasting, information sharing, Greek product displays and cooking demonstrations.
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