top of page
© Copyright
© Copyright

Living Like A Monk: Reducing Cancer Risk (The Original Mediterranean Diet)

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

Earlier this week, I discussed a study that showed that "one in ten colorectal and one in ten lung cancers could be avoided if people reduced their red and processed meat intake to less than 5 oz a week.

Now, a slightly more austere regime, could also reduce your risk of prostate cancer to 1/4 of the national averages

Since 1994, the 1,500 monks on Mount Athos, in northern Greece, have been regularly tested and their simple diet (no meat, occasional fish, home-grown vegetables and fruit) and low-stress existence seems to be protecting them from cancer. During this time, only 11 have developed prostate cancer, a rate less than one quarter of the international average. In another study, their rate of lung and bladder cancer was found to bezero.

The staples are fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice and soya dishes, and bread and olives. They grow much of what they eat themselves. Agioritiko red wine is made locally from mountain grapes. Dairy products are rare. Breakfast is hard bread and tea. Much of the day is taken up with chores – cleaning, cooking, tending to crops – followed by a supper, typically of lentils, fruit and salad, and evening prayers. All the monks stick to the rigorous fasting periods of the Orthodox Church, in which a strict vegan diet is prescribed for weeks at a stretch.

Haris Aidonopoulos, a urologist at the University of Thessaloniki, said “What seems to be the key is a diet that alternates between olive oil and non olive oil days, and plenty of plant proteins,” he said. “It’s not only what we call the Mediterranean diet, but also eating the old-fashioned way. Small simple meals at regular intervals are very important.”

On holidays and feast days such as Christmas and Easter, when other Greeks are feasting on roast meat, the monks prefer fish, their only culinary luxury. Father Moses of the Koutloumousi monastery, one of the 20 organized cloisters scattered over the Athos peninsula, said: “We never eat meat. We produce most of the vegetables and fruit we consume. And we never forget that all year round, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we don’t use olive oil on our food.”

Michalis Hourdakis, a dietitian associated with Athens University, said: “This limited consumption of calories has been found to lengthen life. Meat has been associated with intestinal cancer, while fruit and vegetables help ward off prostate cancer.”

Their diet is simple, a mostly vegan diet centered around home grown fruits and vegetables, with limited amounts of olive oil (which is served on salads when used) regular fasting and a moderately high level of activities of daily living.

Salad days

Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday

Breakfast: Hard bread, tea

Lunch: Pasta or rice,vegetables, olive oil

Dinner: Lentils, fruit and salad, olive oil. Red wine

Monday, Wednesday and Friday: no olive oil

Holidays and feast days: Fish and seafood

In Health



Recent Posts

See All

An Apple A Day...

Chef Jeff's Weekly Health Tips September 28, 1998 An Apple A Day.... "I crave sugar!  What can I do about my sweet tooth?" Ever feel like this?  If you do, you can take heart.   Having a sweet tooth i

The Mediterranean Diet?

Greece has among the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, at more than 30 percent, while the level for adults is also near the top of Europe's list — a problem considered to have emerged sinc

Atherosclerosis in Children?

According to a report presented at the annual American Heart Association meeting in Chicago on Sunday. Children with risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol and diabetes, are showin

bottom of page