Discover the secrets of the Ikaria Diet, a unique and health-focused approach to nutrition inspired by the residents of Ikaria Island! And in particular, learn more about the Green Mediterranean diet: this amplifies the basic principles of our eating habits and traditions on my island of Ikaria, entirely cutting out red and processed meats. It means consuming more plant-based foods, and leaning on ingredients like chickpeas, tofu, beans, and nuts as primary sources of protein. 

In this guide, I’ll illustrate the numerous advantages of embracing a green lifestyle. By reducing your intake of red meat, you contribute to the well-being of Mother Earth. In the immediate term, you might experience weight loss and an improved mood. Over the long run, research indicates that adopting the green Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes while also enhancing the quality of your sleep.

Want to dig into the green way of eating, and the Ikaria diet in general? Start to go mostly plant-based, focusing on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and whole grains. You’ll also start to focus on healthy fat sources, most notably, olive oil. Scroll on for my recipes that promise to immerse you in the flavors of Ikaria, from vibrant salads to hearty main courses!


Sautéed Spinach with Orange and Garlic

Leafy greens play a crucial role in all iterations of the Mediterranean diet. The extensive array of greens found throughout the Mediterranean region, particularly in Greece, provides myriad options for enhancing soups, salads, and main courses, all while being rich in essential nutrients. Abundant in fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, to name just a few, greens stand out as an ideal ingredient for promoting both superb health and delectable flavors. Try this Sautéed Spinach with Orange and Garlic recipe for a totally unique combination of flavors; oranges and olive oil and a generous dose of garlic provide the flavor palette that enhances the spinach!

Vegetable Main Courses

BEST Gigantes Recipe (Greek Giant Beans Casserole)

Make veggies the star of the show at your next meal! Greek giant beans, or gigantes, pronounced GHEE-ghan-des, are hearty and versatile. This is one of our favorite Greek family recipes for them, sweetened with just a little Greek honey from the island of Ikaria.

Braised Mixed Mushrooms with Wrinkled Olives and Orange

Or if you want to go the umami route, these Braised Mixed Mushrooms with Wrinkled Olives and Orange are the perfect choice. Mushrooms are a kind of delicious functional food – a super food — and they are gaining in reputation as a great replacement for red meat and a salve against Alzheimer’s. Indeed, research shows that mushroom consumption a few times a week has a beneficial effect on slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Jammy Braised Chestnuts With Fresh Tomatoes & Herbs

For a unique mix of ingredients, I’d suggest this recipe for Braised Chestnuts and Shallots / Kastana Stifado – it’s unusual, yes, but it also happens to be one of my favorites, an old country dish from Arcadia in the Peloponnese. And if you want to try one of the most delicious in the whole range of Greek vegetarian mains, you have to taste Skordostoumbi – Zakynthos Garlicky Eggplant, a Greek recipe for garlicky baked eggplant. It’s a traditional dish of the Ionian islands and a perfect example of great Mediterranean Diet vegetable cookery! 

Ikaria Diet Recipes: Beans 

Sympetherio, a traditional Greek bean recipe

Bean lovers rejoice! There are all kinds of great ways to get more beans in your diet. This Greek recipe, called Sympetherio, hails from Crete and is the absolute perfect paradigm of the healthy Mediterranean diet. This fascinating multi-bean and grain Greek recipe has a story: Sympetherio means in-laws and legend has it that the dish was so named because it’s like a marriage…many disparate parts working together harmoniously!

Sweet and Sour Lentils Baked with Honey, Vinegar and Leeks

And this sweet and sour baked lentils with honey, vinegar, and leeks is a Greek recipe that I adapted from a dish called Minoan Lentils, which was originally published in the My Greek Table book. It’s so nutritious, easy and delicious, that it stands as a kind of poster child for great Mediterranean diet bean recipes. The Green Mediterranean diet also gives chickpeas a chance to shine: this recipe for Clay-Baked Chickpea Soup from Sifnos is always a favorite!

Ikaria Diet Recipes: Whole Grains

Leak walnut rice with saffron and currants. A recipe by Diane Kochilas.

When embarking on the green Mediterranean diet, it’s essential to ensure your pantry is well-stocked with whole grains such as barley, bulgur, quinoa, rice, and even oatmeal. These grains are a great blank slate for building all kinds of flavor profiles, like Leek-Walnut Rice with Saffron and Currants. This Spanakorizo with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Feta and Ouzo is a play on a classic, but still one I love to make – it’s great for the whole family, and filling too!

Spanakorizo, or spinach rice, is one of the great Greek-diet plant-based main courses!

The Green Mediterranean diet is not just a way of eating; it’s a celebration of life and longevity. By incorporating this diet into your daily routine, you can embrace the essence of the Ikarian lifestyle and reap the numerous health benefits associated with it!