The US Department of Health declared May as the Mediterranean Diet month. Spring bounty and market stalls full of fresh produce strongly support this government initiative, with colors, smells and flavors that bring to mind hills of Tuscany or coast of Greece. Also of beautiful, thin people in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, who have never heard of Mediterranean diet but who know how to enjoy their food and life in general and rarely have to worry about obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.
Old, old diet fad
When it comes to diet fads, Mediterranean diet beats them all: it has been around for a few thousand years. After an unsuccessful attempt by Dr. Ancel Keys who tried to bring it to the Americans after the Second World War, Americans have discovered it in the 90″s. It was the time when they tried to understand the “French Paradox” ” “ the fact that many Mediterranean countries eat rich foods often accompanied with wine and have very low incidence of cardiovascular diseases and obesity.
What makes scientists and nutritionists particularly intrigued is the fact that Mediterranean diet is no low fat diet, and low fat diets have been considered for a long time a must for people with heart problems.
What do Mediterranean people eat?
Since so many Mediterranean countries have extremely varied cuisine, what we call today as Mediterranean Diet is what is common to all of them:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, often eaten raw
- Unsweetened fruit juices
- Whole grains such as oats, wheat, rice, corn, rye and barley. Best eaten whole, with minimum processing.
- Olives and olive oil. Most of dietary fat in the Mediterranean Diet comes from olive oil.
- Nuts and seeds for healthy fats, flavor and texture
- Beans and Legumes for protein and fiber
- Herbs and spices for flavor and cultural identity
- Cheese and yoghurt
- Fish and shellfish
- Eggs for protein instead of meat
- Meats ” “ in small doses, as a treat, very lean
- Wine ” “ to accompany food, not to get drunk
Mediterranean way of life
There is more to Mediterranean diet than the ingredients in the dishes. The meals are considered a pleasure, to be savored while cooked and while eaten, often eaten with family and friends. Mediterranean people eat slowly, the portions are small and very diverse, containing a bit of everything. They dance after the meal or go for a walk, and spend a lot of time outdoors.
It is easy to see that Mediterranean lifestyle leads to a longer life and the life with much less stress. We cannot all move to Italy or France, but we can think a bit about how to bring some of that lifestyle, with food and with eating habits, to our colder and much faster world.