The Mediterranean Diet is based on the diet of people living in Greece, Italy, Southern France and Spain. Mediterraneans consume about the same amount of fat as Northern Europeans and Americans yet live longer, have a lower incidence of heart disease and cancer, and lower cholesterol levels.
An American doctor called Ancel Keys was the first person to comments favourably on the Mediterranean diet, way back in 1945, but its current popularity is based on research and observations from the last twenty years. The surprising thing is that people living in the Mediterranean typically consume more fat than North European countries and the USA, but have much reduced incidence of heart disease – the exact reasons are unknown, but it is likely that the main reason is that most of the fat in the Mediterranean Diet comes from olive oil and that there is more physical labour involved in their lives.
Nevertheless, we can all use Mediterranean diet recipes in our daily lives to be more healthy.
The Mediterranean Diet is rich in olive oil, fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, fish and unrefined cereals. Mediterranean people have a moderate consumption of dairy products and wine, and a low consumption of meat, meat products and saturated fat. The typical constituents of a Mediterranean diet are:-
People living in the Mediterranean use olive oil, a monounsaturated oil, instead of saturated fats. They drizzle olive oil on their bread instead of butter, they use it as a salad dressing and cook with it.
Olive oil is rich in vitamins and antioxidants which help to prevent cancer, clogging of the arteries and heart disease. Olive oil lowers bad cholesterol and increases the amount of good cholesterol, keeping our arteries healthy. It helps to keep our digestive systems healthy, is good for brain development and is thought to help dissolve blood clots.
Look in your recipe collection for diet recipes using olive oil and substitute olive oil for saturated fats.
Northern Europeans and Americans eat a diet high in red meat, Mediterraneans eat a diet high in fish and shellfish. Red meat is a source of saturated fat which can cause heart disease whereas fish and shellfish are high in minerals and proteins, and low in fat. Oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, anchovies and swordfish are a good source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids which help to prevent heart disease.
Browse online for free recipes and Mediterranean diet recipes to incorporate more oily fish into your diet.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
The Mediterranean Diet is high in fresh fruit and vegetables. Mediterranean people shop at markets and buy fresh, seasonal produce. Fruit and vegetables are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals including antioxidants and do not contain cholesterol. A diet high in fruit and vegetables helps to protect us against cancer and heart disease, and also keeps our digestive systems healthy.
Wholegrains are rich in essential vitamins and fibre. The fibre helps to keep our digestive systems in good working order. Wholegrains help to reduce cholesterol, reduce our risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and diabetes.
Legumes are a good source of vitamins, minerals and soluble fibre. They help to reduce cholesterol, keep our digestive systems healthy and help to balance blood sugar levels. Look for diet recipes which use dried beans and pulses and add beans to stews and casseroles.
Mediterraneans enjoy drinking red wine in moderate amounts. Red wine is rich in flavanoids which contain antioxidants.
It is fairly easy to find Mediterranean diet recipes to add to our recipe collection, and even easier to modify our normal recipes to include more of the above foods, so why not give it a try.
The Mediterranean Diet in a Nutshell