Stop Worrying! That’s the number one resolution you can make to start living 2024 like an Ikarian!  It sounds obvious, but it’s one of the key health and longevity secrets in Ikaria. And yes, while it helps to be on an island, you can actually start to relax a little more through the foods you eat. 

What are the elements that comprise the secrets to health on my longevity island of Ikaria? There are 3 that are actually key to Ikaria’s regular diet: Almonds, chamomile, and real Greek yogurt.  I’ve taken the liberty of adding 2 more that you can easily incorporate into your weekly diet. Scroll on to read more!


Warm Broccoli Salad with Greek Yogurt and Toasted Almonds

Rich in brain-boosting nutrients like vitamin E and healthy fats, almonds have shown promising results in animal studies by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation—factors often linked to anxiety development. Studies have also hinted at almonds’ mood-boosting abilities. A connection has been drawn between increased nut consumption, including almonds, and decreased symptoms of depression. Moreover, a study involving over 3,000 adults found that men who consumed the most nuts were significantly less likely to experience anxiety compared to those who consumed the least.

So how can you build up your almond intake? I’ve got plenty of Greek recipes for that. This Almond-Crusted Hake Over Almond Risotto is an easy way to bring almonds into all aspects of the dish – and to make it a main event! Almonds are also great in veggie-forward sides, like Warm Broccoli Salad with Greek Yogurt and Toasted Almonds, and you can even enjoy them in simple (but tasty!) desserts, a la my Frozen Bananas Covered With Yogurt And Almonds.


Chamomile tea is calming.Chamomile, an herb renowned for its potential in reducing anxiety, grows all over the island in the spring time, perfuming life with its gentle, almost apple-like aroma. But beyond that, chamomile holds promise in the de-stressing department because of its rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. While one of the secrets to Ikarians’ longevity is their consumption of all manner of herbal infusions, mostly picked wild and dried under a shady tree int he garden, chamomile holds a special place. We learn to drink it from the time we’re babies, as it is given to infants to calm them down when colicky and to help them sleep. Chamomile’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities are believed to combat inflammation associated with anxiety, although the exact mechanisms are yet to be fully understood. Thought to have an impact on neurotransmitters tied to mood regulation—like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)—chamomile might play a role in modulating these vital brain chemicals. It’s even suggested that chamomile could influence the body’s stress response by regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, a central part of our stress regulation system. But of course, more research is needed to better understand this magical herb!

Real Greek Yogurt

This ingredient appears all over the Greek kitchen! Real Greek yogurt is naturally probiotic, as are all naturally fermented foods.  You can access yogurt containing probiotics at your local supermarket, too. Yogurtholds promise in enhancing various facets of well-being, including mental health. Probiotics are thought to positively impact the gut-brain axis—an intricate connection between the gut and the brain, potentially influencing your mental well-being. Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt have also been linked to potentially reducing inflammation and increasing the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin.

And I have plenty of recipes with Greek yogurt, ranging from soups to salads and beyond. This Beetroot Falafel with Greek Yogurt Hummus is the perfect dip, and they help to fluff up these Keto-friendly Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” with Greek Yogurt. It goes in my Spiced Beetroot Spaghetti with Cumin, Cloves & Greek Yogurt, and Creamy Broccoli Soup with Greek Yogurt, Ouzo, Ginger and Pumpkin Seeds. You’ll even find it in this Kale Caesar With Greek Yogurt Dressing, proving there’s nothing yogurt can’t do! 


Grilled salmon skewers. Salmon fish with leeks on skewers

Salmon emerges as a potential ally in anxiety reduction due to its rich nutrient profile, notably vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These elements play vital roles in promoting brain health! The omega-3 fatty acids found abundantly in salmon are linked to neurotransmitter regulation, particularly dopamine and serotonin, which contribute to feelings of calmness and relaxation. Studies indicate that a diet abundant in EPA and DHA correlates with reduced anxiety rates, possibly through their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to stave off brain cell dysfunction commonly associated with anxiety. Moreover, these nutrients seem to bolster the brain’s adaptability to change, crucial in potentially enhancing your capacity to manage stress triggers that induce anxiety symptoms.

Salmon may not be the most Greek of ingredients, but it’s still one I love, especially wild salmon — I tend to steer clear of the farmed variety — and it pairs beautifully with all manner of Greek ingredients. One of my favorite recipes is an easy Salmon-Leek Skewer that takes no time to cook and has extra goodness in the sprinkling of sesame seeds over it, too!  too! A few other salmon options to boost your  mood: Salmon Saffron Risotto, Mediterranean-Style Salmon with Greens and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Grilled Salmon with Tomatoes and Olives. 

Dark Chocolate

Chia pudding with berries, banana, peanut butter and cocoa nibs in a coconut shell bowl.

Every woman I know knows that a little [dark] chocolate goes a long way to beat the blues! So, yes, you read that right – dark chocolate just might be the ingredient you’re missing to live a more healthy, less stressful life, thanks to its flavonol content, notably epicatechin and catechin—plant compounds revered for their antioxidant properties. Studies hint at the potential benefits of these flavonols, indicating their positive influence on brain function and neuroprotection. Particularly, they’re believed to augment blood flow to the brain and enhance cell-signaling pathways, potentially enabling better adaptation to stress-inducing situations that often lead to anxiety and other mood disorders.

But at the end of it all, maybe it’s just that it’s chocolate. Some researchers propose that dark chocolate’s impact on brain health could simply be attributed to its taste—a comforting indulgence! And if you want to feel this boost for yourself, you can grab a bar to enjoy solo, or try some dark chocolate nibs with my  Chia Seed Pudding.

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