Olive Oil, Cornerstone of the Ikarian Diet

Centenarians of Ikaria might not know the countless ways olive oil can improve their health, they just know it works.

Mar. 29, 2017
By Charalampos Papapostolou

Recent News

It could be a long time until you’ll see a bot­tle of Ikarian olive oil at your local store: Production is small and the locals have lit­tle to spare.

If there isn’t any olive oil in the house, what can you cook?- Ioanna Proiou Dimitriadou

Ikaria, the leg­endary home of Icarus whose wings melted when he flew too near the sun, is home to 8,000 Greeks, many of whom live much longer than aver­age. In fact, one in three Ikarians lives well into her 90s, and many here go on to become cen­te­nar­i­ans.

But not only do Ikarians live long, they also tend to be in more robust health and die nat­u­rally.

Today, the Ikarian secrets have been uncov­ered. Moderate daily exer­cise, naps, a car­ing com­mu­nity, lit­tle empha­sis on time. and the key one. the Ikarian diet: lots of greens and olive oil.

The island has an exten­sive moun­tain­ous topog­ra­phy, so olive groves are cul­ti­vated on hand-made stone ter­races.

Giorgos Stenos, 85, has grown up along­side his trees. Land here is tra­di­tion­ally passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.


He told Olive Oil Times that nearly all cul­ti­vated olive groves on Ikaria have resulted from the graft­ing of wild olive trees that already existed here.

Ioanna Proiou-Dimitriadou lives in Christos Rachon vil­lage and despite her 106 years, has a very active life. She spends sev­eral hours a day in her work­shop, weav­ing tex­tiles at a loom. When asked about the impor­tance of olive oil she said, olive oil is a rem­edy, it revi­tal­izes us.”


During the sec­ond world war, when the island was occu­pied by the Germans and Italians, there was a sub­stan­tial loss of life through star­va­tion. The vil­lages affected were only those with­out olive groves around. As Stylianos Moulas, the priest of Aghios Polykarpos vil­lage said, We owe our sur­vival to olive oil.”

Olive har­vest­ing is an impor­tant sea­sonal job of a typ­i­cal Ikarian house­hold. Every year from the end of October until February you’ll find many Ikarians out in the fields.

Ikarians who don’t have olive trees go and help those who do. Instead of money, they get olive oil in return. Often, they work a field of olive trees and give the owner half of the har­vest.

Aggelos Politis, the owner of a local olive press, said local pro­duc­ers take much care with their olives because the oil pro­duced will feed their fam­ily.

Centenarians of Ikaria might not have knowl­edge of the count­less ways olive oil can improve their health, but they are fully aware of its effects on their lives.


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