Saturday, March 15, 2008

The half vegan monks who are the world's healthiest people

In Italy we have a saying which translates into English as “discovering hot water”, i.e. discovering the obvious.

The medical world has recently found, through a series of in-depth, comprehensive studies including a 10-year study, that one of the healthiest groups of people on earth eats fresh food, mostly vegetables, fruits, pulses and grains, in moderation, in a stress-free environment, within a close supportive community.

These lucky guys are the monks of Mount Athos, in Greece.

They are vegan for more than half of the year, and predominantly vegetarian the other half.

Despite their average venerable age, the 2,000 monks living in 20 ancient monasteries have virtually no heart disease, no cardiac arrests and no strokes, a zero-incidence of Alzheimer’s disease which astonished the researchers conducting the various studies, and unusually low rates of cancer, which in the case of prostate cancer is 4 times lower than the international average. The latter finding is even more remarkable when you know that the monks in that particular investigation were aged between 50 and 104. Their rates of lung, bowel and bladder cancer are zero.

Mount Athos monasteries, called by the British Guardian newspaper “a land without butter”, follow some simple rules.

Monks never eat meat, and only very sporadically eat fish. The bulk of their diet is rice, pasta, bread, pulses, fruits, vegetables, all entirely seasonal and home-grown in the monastery’s gardens.

More than 200 days of the year, including all Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and some religious periods like Lent and Advent, are called “abstention days” and strictly vegan, with only one meal per day.

The rest are non-fast days, on which dairy products, eggs, fish and home-brewed wine can be had. In moderation.

Each meal lasts 20 minutes, after which a bell rings and the monks have to leave the table.

Some of the monks’ favourite dishes are pasta with tomato sauce (who can blame them), rice with boiled greens and leeks, beans with oil, an aubergine, tomato and potato stew called "briam toulou", and chickpea patties.

Since 1994, scientists have regularly tested the monks for cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, some of the West’s most feared diseases, and found astounding low or even zero rates of them.

According to scientists, the single most important factor in the monks’ low cancer incidence is their high intake of plant foods.

Professor Haris Aidonopoulos, urologist at the University of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, said that the key seems to be a diet with plenty of plant proteins, free from meat. It has been proven, he continued, that a dietary intake of protein from lentils and beans prevents the absorption of toxins.

Claire Williamson, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, concurs: “Using pulses as a source of protein is something we could all learn from. We tend to rely more on meat, fish, eggs and dairy for protein. Pulses are great for variety, and they provide lots of fibre and iron.”

Pulses, like peas, beans, lentils, soya, chickpeas, are also a low-fat source of protein.

Michalis Hourdakis, a dietician with Athens University, added: “Meat has been associated with intestinal cancer, while fruit and vegetables help ward off prostate cancer.”

“The monks have perfected the typical Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruit, vegetables, olive oil, bread, cereals and legumes and low in meat” said Maria Hassapidou, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Thessaloniki in Greece. “On Mount Athos, they have gone one step further by forfeiting meat and only occasionally eating fish, which means they have a very low intake of saturated fats and a high intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, both of which help further to prevent the incidence of cardiovascular disease.”


Unknown said...

I have asked myself the question," is fun worth dying for"? Every single time I have to say "yes it is". It is interesting that the results of studies done on individuals or isolated groups that lead "restricted" life styles always sound so good....I wish to leave this world having done and experienced everything possible. Anything less is just plain unhealthy! I'll take a good time over immortality any time

Anonymous said...

But is it really a good time?

Anonymous said...

it sounds like their bodies and minds are happier (fun). i feel like hell after indulging in foods.

i have more fun questioning our culture and food culture in general, questioning tradition. i think it's more fun to be able to reject the things that most people never question, and to experiment with one's inner spiritual/physical relationship. to go where most have not.

veganism has totally transformed my entire view on life, death, and the way i treat others.

Unknown said...

Fun? Wow, I have been eating a vegan diet for over 5 years and I can say that it has been more amazing then my previous omnivore diet. I actually cook more, eat more organic, healthy and really tasty food (I have made lots of chef friends, unlike before) and even more importantly, I am showing respect to my body, the animals, the environment and other humans. So much science and research has said that the SAD (Standard American Diet) high in animal products is not only bad for you (human), but causes horrific suffering for animals (factory farms make 99.9% of animal products), devastating amounts of land, air and water pollution, and contributes to am unbalanced food supply. Since I am not just on the planet for myself, but for others and I am interconnected to the environment, I enjoy eating those foods which help all three, and taste amazing.

Everest said...

yeah eating meat is sooo gross to us vegans or vegetarians...i can't even eat eggs...the chicks tossed in grinders alive and suffocated in mass garbage bags for eggs....cheese full of calf's disgusting and since when is drinking a cow's breast milk healthy or tasty ? it's all habit..and sick habits.

would you eat a human carcass ? or drink human breast milk ?
gross right ? that's how eating flesh and dairy is to most vegans...and it's senseless suffering to these pour animals who live tortured lives for your selfish appetite.

fun is feeling healthy / fit - thin without trying at all, and having energy and ALSO cultivating your spiritual life.

the kind of fun the world lives is that of grasping at things that never fulfill you but just make you feel rotten afterwards.

Unknown said...

I was overweight by 25+ lbs. After half a century of running, I was winded after one mile. I will not go into detail but gastrointestinal problems were piling up and I felt lousy. I ate a lot of bacon, burgers, etc. "All American" diet. After watching Forks Over Knives on Netflix, I was convinced that my diet was the enemy. I am a Biology and Physics Teacher and was heavily influenced by the scientific support for the efficacy of a vegetarian diet... actually a whole foods plant based diet to be (Great GI health.), and to those who don't want to sacrifice I will tell you I have discovered an incredible array of flavors. I find that eating vegetarian is SO much more enjoyable. Variation is the spice of life and a vegetarian diet is so much better than the meat and potatoes I grew up on. I am finally truly living!

Osmal said...

Long life of these monks are associated also to the water and marine salt they consume, the olive oil, the marine air they respire and their busy activities all day including meditation, arts and movement (they work in gardens ...)

Unknown said...

The cruel irony is that pain and self control aren't the enemy. Living for self gratification and still being unsatisfied is worse than physical hardship or the dicipline of practicing moderation.

What more can movie stars want, yet even with all they have they want more. There isn't enough pleasure in the world to satisfy a person, as soon as one pleasure is consumed it's time for another. Some people chase a self centred high until death leaving the pain they caused to other people in their wake. People self destruct trying to ignore the emptiness pleasure seeking always leaves them with.

I would take self dicipline, a healthy body, a clear conscience, and peace in my soul over living for pleasure.

Carolyn said...

Well said. I totally agree. The other irony in my opinion, is Alberts comment implies the monks are living a dull unhappy life. These are the most content group of beings on the planet.

Antti Halonen said...

Practically intermittent fasting should be noted. Ie. very low calorie intake for 200 days per year!

Unknown said...

I wanna give props to all the people who are vegan who are doing it for your own good and the good of other animals who we've tourchered so much and you guys are gonna be the one to change this cruel world and I wish I could be like you all, becoming vegetarian I tried for a couple days and I ended up still eating meat I'm only 17 and I'm still young but I don't wanna get into the habit of eating meat McDonald's and all this nasty fast food places for the rest of my life I was watching this documentary of how the meat we eat can cause cancer and a whole bunch of heart problems and sadly it's true the food the government and other companies feed us is the one killing us and all they do it try and hide it to make money and it's just sad how we can turn on our own species just for the will of money and it's true we will always want more and more most of us will never be satisfied with what we have when we should be greatfull for everything Gods given us and it's so messed up what we have done to this world to the animals ruining out on environment some people don't understand the harm we have done to this world and it hurts to see what we've become and the sad part if any of us were in the shoes of the one feeding this crap to our children most of us would do the same we are a fucked up species I would like to say I would never do anything like this but in reality who knows anymore we act like we are good people but we know the terrible things we would do I know there's some good in all of us but with good comes evil and that's what takes us over

xyore said...

very nice post

Anonymous said...

Meghan, you wrote something here very profound for me and I'm grateful you spelled it out. Being humble, and being gracious is recipe for happy satisfying life. Less stress and positivity and love is key. You are very special with wise words. Thank you.

JW said...

I’m guessing the dirt on Athos is pretty darn good. Bet that & freshness are also factors.

Anonymous said...

GO VEGAN ALL YEAR!!! ::)))))

AlternativeWorlds said...

Actually they are pescetarians,not vegans. They also stand up for very long services and have very regular schedules. As for eternity, we will all experience it. In heaven or hell.