More and more we hear enthusiastic praise for the Mediterranean diet!!!
Intrigued by this, I decided to look into it and try to understand why it is on the lips of so many people; journalists, food experts, scholars, doctors and it has even ended up on the list of UNESCO as world heritage.
I imagine that in Western culture there is a problem due to the big changes in the way we live; more and more people spend much of their life bound to the chair in the office or in a car and take much less physical activity and so end up less toned and more and more overweight!!
We must not forget the constant bombardment, especially from large multinationals, inciting us to consume more and more products, often of poor quality which are prepared with too many salts and sugars just to mention the two main ones; we have to consume as much as we can as the large companies main objective is to associate their products to a better lifestyle etc etc and what’s more is good for us. We could compare it to large multinational pharmaceutical companies with their message of do not worry, just take a tablet, a syrup, etc. etc. and you will be back to health again instead of educating people on prevention!!
Now back to the diet and the Mediterranean lifestyle.
It would seem obvious to most people that proper nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle is the basis to prevent many of the diseases now prevalent in our society.
Unfortunately, lifestyles and eating patterns have moved further away from old traditions and consequently there is an impressive increase of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, etc.
The “Mediterranean diet” is based on the food traditions of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and in particular those of Italy. The plant-based foods, such as cereals and dairy products, fruit, vegetables and olive oil dominate by far the consumption of foods of animal origin.
Apparently, after several scientific studies, the Mediterranean Diet comes out at the top for wholesomeness and completeness and is recognized worldwide for its ability to prevent obesity, bulimia, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. With its large consumption of olive oil ( with its antioxidant powers) combined with the consumption of raw and cooked vegetables the Mediterranean diet is also an important means of preventing cancer.
The “food pyramid” of the Mediterranean diet is designed by nutritionists. At the base are the products to be consumed more frequently and then it goes up step by step towards the summit where there are those to be eaten less frequently.
This is divided into three groups, as shown in figure.
Red meat and sweets should be consumed on a weekly, not daily, basis and in small amounts.
In our sedentary lifestyle it is obvious that this diet cannot help us completely, thus good daily exercise completes the pyramid of health.
In a short summary: take some physical activity, choose seasonal products, drink plenty of water and fill your table with a very wide variety of vegetables and fruit. Try for low alcohol consumption and not too much salt.
The main protagonists of the Mediterranean diet are olive oil, cereals (especially in pasta, rice and bread), legumes, fruits and all vegetables – and a little wine.
It is not a vegetarian diet; the addition of the right amount of animal products (meat, milk, eggs, fish and cheese) ensures a balanced diet which is suitable for all ages and can considerably reduce the risk of the diseases frequent in our affluent lifestyle.
Cereals and their derivatives are used primarily to meet our energy needs; the intake of those complex carbohydrates are prescribed and recommended by the most modern theories of nutrition. The constant presence of bread in all its many varieties on the table and daily consumption of pasta as the main food of one of the two main daily meals perfectly matches this nutritional requirement.
We may conclude by saying:
Exercise, drink lots of water, eat preferably seasonal products such as fruit, vegetables and have carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread etc) with main meals.
Everyday consume milk and dairy products, extra virgin olive oil, use spices to reduce the amount of salt and why not a couple of glasses of wine (preferably red)?
Have a weekly mix of 1-2 servings of poultry, 1-2 servings of fish (white or blue), 2-4 servings of eggs and legumes. Try low consumption of red meat, cold cuts and desserts.
I am sure that most of you already know what I have written; following the Mediterranean diet requires a little commitment but why not?!
Good health to you!!