Mediterranean Nutrition, Food Patterns, and Systems

OVERVIEW

Some pyramids are memorable for their colossal size and their otherworldly burial chamber decorations; others are notorious as places of human sacrifice; and a select few dazzle visitors with the unexpected crowd of erotic sculptures that adorn the exterior walls. But there is also a pyramid that stands out for its positive contribution to human happiness and longevity. No limestone or granite or baked mud bricks went into its construction. This exceptional pyramid is made of food and is known as the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which share similar characteristics. The Mediterranean Diet is best enjoyed in its native land, where the olive oil flows freely on a wide range of delectable dishes, while the scent from herbs and the citrus trees fill the air. Such aromas and flavors can be found on many Greek islands, but nowhere do they combine in most glorious fashion than on the island of Chios.

Available throughout the year, upon request



OVERVIEW

Some pyramids are memorable for their colossal size and their otherworldly burial chamber decorations; others are notorious as places of human sacrifice; and a select few dazzle visitors with the unexpected crowd of erotic sculptures that adorn the exterior walls. But there is also a pyramid that stands out for its positive contribution to human happiness and longevity. No limestone or granite or baked mud bricks went into its construction. This exceptional pyramid is made of food and is known as the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which share similar characteristics. The Mediterranean Diet is best enjoyed in its native land, where the olive oil flows freely on a wide range of delectable dishes, while the scent from herbs and the citrus trees fill the air. Such aromas and flavors can be found on many Greek islands, but nowhere do they combine in most glorious fashion than on the island of Chios.

Available throughout the year, upon request



Studies consistently demonstrate that the Mediterranean dietary pattern reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and certain cancers and, perhaps more importantly, that adherence rates are higher compared to other diets prescribed to promote health. More recently, the Mediterranean way of eating has been highlighted as an example of a diet with a lower environmental impact than the common dietary pattern in most industrialized nations. 

It is, of course, possible to learn all sorts of things about pyramids from books and the internet. But nothing is as soul-nourishing and intellectually satisfying as a hands (or should we say mouth)-on approach. The Mediterranean Diet is best enjoyed in its native land, where the olive oil flows freely on a wide range of delectable dishes, while the scent from herbs and the citrus trees fill the air. Such aromas and flavors can be found on many Greek islands, but nowhere do they combine in most glorious fashion than on the island of Chios. 

Chios is defined by its mild Mediterranean climate, exceptionally rich soil, wild natural beauty, and vibrant traditions. Over the centuries, the island has attracted countless guests and conquerors; history will tell us that what brought them here was Chios’ strategic location and convenient position along major trade routes. But for those in the know, it is equally credible that what attracted these multitudes of visitors was the island’s gastronomy. 

The island is well known as an agricultural epicenter. The expansive orchard of Kampos, south of the town of Chios, supplies golden oranges, lemons, tangerines, and mandarins. The hardy vineyards that dot the countryside offer the main ingredients for the famous local ouzo. Every homemaker’s cupboards burst with rows of glass jars full of spoon sweets (the lemon flower spoon sweet is reason enough to invade). There is twisted pasta with mushrooms (striftaria), an incredibly soft white cheese, a cornucopia of seafood, honey, meatballs, and pies. And of course, there is mastic, a natural resin that oozes from the trunk of the mastic tree and may very well have been the world’s first chewing gum.

This course will examine the key elements of the Mediterranean dietary pattern, including food culture in the Mediterranean, and discuss how the various factors in combination are greater than the sum of their parts from a nutrition and sustainability perspective. The foodways of Chios and Greece, in general, will be used as a home base for exploring and analyzing Mediterranean ingredients and food customs, as well as comparing other Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean dietary patterns. We will study food systems through specific ingredients produced in Chios such as honey, citrus, wine, and olive oil. Special attention will be paid to mastic, an evergreen tree grown only in Chios for its culinary and medicinal properties, and aromatic herbs, through which we will study cultivation and good agricultural practices in addition to chemical composition, control, analysis, and application of these herbs in the cosmetic and herbal medicine industry. 

This is a fast-paced, intensive summer study abroad course in the beautiful and culturally rich island of Chios, Greece. The program offers a balanced approach with a combination of theory and experiential field trips to innovative local businesses and producers. Classroom instruction, discussion, reading, assignments, presentations, and experiential learning will contribute to a more wholesome, entertaining and memorable educational approach. 

The Mediterranean Products program in Chios, Greece is an exclusive opportunity to explore the abundance of native (matchless) resources Chios has to offer while learning about the unique features of the Mediterranean Diet.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

  • Meet with beekeepers and learn about the process of harvesting honey, the beneficial health properties of honey and its by-products, and producing natural cosmetics.
  • Take a hands-on, expert-led seminar on identifying and collecting aromatic herbs on a Greek mountain.
  • Explore the island of Chios including local businesses and farms
  • Visit a local vineyard and brewery, learn about fermented beverages and their effects on health, and taste Grecian wines and beer.
  • Learn about sustainable agricultural practices and global food distribution through a tour of a citrus farm.
  • Become familiar with mastic, a culturally significant ingredient, including its cultivation, bioactive ingredients, and health benefits through a tour and tasting at a mastic farm and production facility. 
  • Explore the Mediterranean products and their benefits by integrating Mediterranean foodways and meals into your daily life.

SYLLABUS

Course Topics

  • The Mediterranean Diet: Overview
  • Subsistence Strategies & Sustainable Agriculture
  • Cultivation and Uses of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants
  • Mastic production, health benefits, and uses
  • Phytochemicals, Essential Oils, & Emerging Science
  • The Science & Art of Fermentation
  • The Power of Antioxidants & Polyphenols
  • Global Plant-Forward /Animal Products, Health, & Sustainability

After completing the course you will be able to:

  • Define socio-cultural, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to the backbone of the Mediterranean dietary pattern. 
  • Discuss how the key characteristics of the Mediterranean dietary pattern contribute to the health of humans and the environment.
  • Analyze the difference among different versions of the Mediterranean Diet and compare/contrast with the classic fare and dietary attitudes in industrialized nations including the United States.
  • Identify agricultural products produced in Greece that contribute to their specific Mediterranean dietary pattern and explain their significance.
  • Discuss the environmentally-conscious cultivation of the mastic and aromatic herbs, identify their key phytochemical components, and explain how they are incorporated into the Mediterranean diet and what are their health benefits. 
  • Apply knowledge of the environmental factors, food, and lifestyle choices that contribute to an achievable Mediterranean dietary pattern to assist with the advancement of this diet in diverse populations.

FACULTY

Kristen Rasmussen (University of California, Berkeley)

Kristen Rasmussen, MS, RDN is a culinary nutrition and food sustainability expert with passions that have led her many places – from implementing plant-based, stem-to-root menu revamps in restaurants to conducting sensory studies and exploring fermentation at the Nordic Food Lab. She is an adjunct faculty member at UC Berkeley, past adjunct faculty at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, and owner of Rooted Food, Inc., a culinary nutrition and food sustainability consulting company.

Kristen has worked on innovative projects with various organizations including Bon Appétit Management Company, UC Berkeley’s Brown’s Café, 6d bytes, the UCSF Division of Endocrinology, and The Culinary Institute of America’s Strategic Initiatives Group. Additionally, Kristen is a co-investigator of Berkeley Open Source Food, a non-profit dedicated to increasing availability and consumption of wild edible plants through research, education, and outreach.

Most recently, Kristen has spearheaded Scandinavian-inspired pop-ups, of which she is also the chef, that were featured in the San Francisco Chronicle. Her “West Coast Nordic” food philosophy is based on New Nordic ideals rooted in place and time, incorporating ingredients and techniques from the environment around her.

Ioannis Mourtzinos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)

Ioannis Mourtzinos is an Assistant Professor in Food Chemistry and Analysis in the Dept. of Food Science and Technology, Faculty of Agriculture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He received his Bachelor in Chemistry (2001) and his M.Sc. in Food Chemistry and Technology (2003) from the same University and his Ph.D. (2007) from Harokopio University.

He participated in courses at Ghent University (Belgium) and Corvinus University (Hungary) on issues related to food safety and health. He worked in the R&D department of Pepsi Co – Ivi (2008-2009) and also in the R&D and QA/QC departments of APIVITA (2010-2014). His research interests include the extraction and characterization of plants’ bioactive ingredients, encapsulation of nutraceutical compounds and the study of antioxidants during heat treatment using techniques such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Gas chromatography (GC-MS, GC-FID), NMR spectroscopy (1H, 13C- NMR), and UV-Vis Spectroscopy. He is the author/co-author of 22 peer-reviewed publications (SCI journals) and 16 contributions to international conferences and over 790 citations (h-factor 12). He participated in 4 European and international research projects and he has three patents.

COURSE STRUCTURE

Dates: May 31st – June 13th
*option to depart on June 14th 

Important Dates:

May 31st: Arrivals & Orientation dinner
June 1st: Lectures begin
June 6th: Field Excursion of choice & free time
June 7th: Free day (beach)
June 12th: Final presentations
June 13th – 14th: Departure

Daily Schedule:

09:00-13:00 Field trip (or lecture upon the case)
13:00-15:00 Lunch
16:00-19:00 Lecture (or field trip upon the case)
19:00-21:00 Dinner

Field Trips

  • Olive oil farm
  • Kampos area (Valley with citrus trees and products)
  • Fish Farms
  • Vineyard & Brewery
  • Identification and exploration of local herbs
  • Culinary excursion
  • Beekeepers
  • Free day to visit the beach

PERKS & OPTIONS

What is included in this program?

  • 3 transferable U.S. credits provided by the Hellenic American University
  • Accommodation in hand-picked and well-located superior class hotels
  • Breakfast and lunch
  • Professionals e.g. licensed guides, lecturers, and tour managers
  • Entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites
  • All land and sea transportation included in the itinerary of the specific program
  • Information material
  • Local taxesTransport to and from the airport in Greece

Optional

  • Airfares to and from Greece
  • Travel insurance
  • Any custom request

PRICE

$3,450 without U.S. transferable credits
$4,000 with 3 U.S. transferable credits

Interested in the Mediterranean Nutrition, Food Patterns, and Systems program in Chios, Greece?