What is the Mediterranean Diet and why it is so important?
The Mediterranean Diet is based on the dietary traditions of the people of the many regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Southern Italy, Spain, Southern France, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Morocco. The Mediterranean people eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, and whole grains; not too much dairy products, fish and poultry; and very small amounts of meats. The main source of fat which comes from olive oil and nuts is monounsaturated fat that usually constitutes 35-40% of calories and fat which comes from fish that is healthy omega-3 fat. In addition, a Mediterranean style diet includes moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly wine, which has been linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular (i.e. heart) disease and seems to be companionable with a healthy lifestyle.
The Mediterranean Diet menu is characterized by an effectively balanced combination of fruit and vegetables, fish, cereals, and olive oil (source for beneficial polyunsaturated fats), with reduced consumption of meat and dairy products and adequate intake of alcohol, primarily red wine. The value of this diet lies in its ability to preserve the state of health and improve longevity, as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared in 2010.
Scientific evidence has shown that the adoption of the Mediterranean diet is a protective factor against the onset of various types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, aging and obesity. As shown by the Epic (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study, the Mediterranean Diet is the most effective in the prevention of several chronic diseases, including cancer.
The nutrients that are found in abundance in the Mediterranean diet have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity properties and contribute together to the maintenance of health status. The anti-tumor effects of the Mediterranean diet are mostly due to the combination of antioxidant elements, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats. This dietary pattern is, therefore, necessary as a preventive mechanism against the onset of cancer and other chronic diseases but also to reduce health care costs.
Demonstration of the Mediterranean Diet Cycle where a Healthy Lifestyle, Energy Intake equal to the Expenditure
As shown in the picture above, at the base of the Mediterranean style there is a healthy lifestyle, energy consumption equal to the expenditure, high-quality olive oil and wine. Within the eating habits, the full focus should be on cereals, legumes, fish, fresh fruits, dried fruits, and vegetables. While animal fats and sugar should be limited use. Moderation should be the principal criteria of the Mediterranean model.
Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid illustrates the traditional foods and drinks that style up the healthy, balanced Mediterranean Diet. This diet is made up of many of the foods you will ﬁnd in other dietary pyramids. The main difference is in the frequency and moderation some foods are eaten. A greater part of foods can be included in a balanced and healthy diet but your overall health and welfare can be significantly affected by how often you eat a variety of foods, and the portion size you choose.
Daily Physical Activity, which is essential for welfare and overall good health, includes active exercise such as running and fast walking, more leisurely activities such as walking and gardening or housekeeping, and simple variations, such as taking the stairs instead of using the elevator. High recommended to exercise regularly, take care of your cardio activities on daily basis.
Olive oil, the main source of Mediterranean diet fat. Olive oil is used for almost all cooking, frying and baking, for dips and dressing salads and vegetables.
Wine and water (double W) – wine can be consumed regularly but moderately: up to 1 glass per day for women, 2 for men. Water is vital for proper hydration and contributes to health, well-being, and energy.
Vegetables, Fruits, Whole Grains, Beans, Herbs and Healthy Fats, such as those found in olive oil represent the fundamental ingredients of the diet. A diet of predominantly plant-based foods, such as vegetable and fruits, nuts, whole grains, legumes. Replacing salt with herbs and spices for flavor.
Fish and Seafood conquer their own section since they are vital sources of protein. Fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines are rich in heart beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, and shellﬁsh including oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp have alike beneﬁts. Enjoy at least twice a week.
Yogurt, cheese, poultry, and eggs form a central part of the Mediterranean Diet and are eaten in moderate portion sizes several times a week. Everyone’s favorite cheese is eaten frequently but in small portions.
Meats and sweets – these foods are moderated and consumed less often. If you meat lover, select small portions of lean cuts, such as tenderloin, round, shoulder, strip, T-bone, and ﬂank. Red meat meals are prepared only a few times a month. Sweets or sugars are enjoyed at a special day or as a treat.
Mediterranean Diet Menu Research and Findings
For years, the most recommended diet to prevent heart and other diseases was a low-fat diet. Then, after more sophisticated research and analysis, it was demonstrated the negative effects of sugar and refined carbohydrates which often included in low-fat meals. As a result many people turned to a low-carb diet, but low-carb diet does not certainly mean “healthy” diet.
Present day, people interested in the healthy lifestyle more and more focus to a traditional Mediterranean meal plan as one of the healthiest eating patterns. A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2/25/2013), illustrates that a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease by significant 30% rate for people at high risk for heart disease.
The study, conducted in Spain, included 7,447 people (ages 55-80), all of whom were at high risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease but had no heart disease at the beginning of the study. People were randomly assigned to one of three different diets:
- A control diet with reduced dietary fats
- A Mediterranean diet complemented with extra virgin olive oil
- A Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts
The people in these latter groups received either 1 liter of free olive oil per week or 30 grams (about 1 ounce) of free nuts per day. The participants who were in the low-fat group received small non-food gifts. There were no calorie constraints and no request to change exercise.
All of the participants had been eating some form of a Mediterranean diet prior to the study. But by the end of the study, the control group was eating less fat than prior to the process. After 4.8 years, the study was stopped when it became apparent that the people in the two Mediterranean diet groups were experiencing less cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke, and other heart diseases) than the other two groups.
Overviewing other recent researches, if you’re looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be the right choice for you.
What Mediterranean Diet consists of?
Let’s look at few of the many nutrition powerhouses that form the foundation of the Mediterranean Diet.