Mediterranean Diet - Oh So Tasty
By Natalia Kim
Yes, there is more to the Mediterranean
than sun, beach and wine... there is the Mediterranean Diet...
For many years now the inhabitants of
countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea - (such as southern Spain,
Italy, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon
and Israel) have been considered to be among the healthiest in the world
enjoying both high life expectancy plus showing health benefits like low
incidence of chronic diseases and in recent years many studies have been
made to discover why and if it has to do with more than just the
Traditionally, their diet has been based
on the livestock, fishing and agriculture of their land and reliance on
foods from a rich diversity of plant sources including fruits, whole
grains, nuts, beans and seeds. In Northern Africa for example, couscous,
vegetables and legumes form the centre of the diet, in the Eastern
Mediterranean, bulgar and rice along with vegetables and legumes and in
Southern Europe, the basis is formed by rice, polenta, pasta with plenty
of vegetables and legumes and everywhere bread is eaten at most meals
(but without butter!).
Nutritional research has shown the
advantages of a diet HIGH in vegetables, fruits, grains, monounsaturated
fats and various complex carbohydrates but LOW in cholesterol and
certain forms of saturated fat and led to greater public awareness.
It is true that these foods, like those
foods consumed by the rest of Europe and the United States are rich in
fat, BUT... of a different type!
Let me explain this: There are three
types of dietary fats:
- Saturated fats, (from animals)
- Polyunsaturated fats (from plants, seeds, nuts and vegetables)
- mono saturated fats (olive oil). Olive oil isn’t only delicious (and
somewhat expensive) but it’s also rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, E
and K as well as iron.
The health and therapeutic benefits of
olive oil are vast: namely…
- it does not have the same cholesterol
raising effects as the saturated fats found in animal fats
- it contains anti-oxidants that discourage clogging of the arteries and
chronic diseases including cancer
- and it also has lubricating properties in so far as it acts as a
laxative, aids digestion and protects the intestine from ulcers.
Now, this "Mediterranean diet"
- (though not exactly a diet in the ´slimmers´ sense of the word), has
led to a style of eating that is a move away from relying on
manufactured food stuffs to recipes consisting of natural and healthy
ingredients eaten raw or minimally processed.
So WHAT typically comprises "The
When, in 1993, The Harvard University
School of Public Health and Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust (a
Boston based educational organisation) held a conference on the
Mediterranean diet and its influence on public health, reviewing data
concerned with the dietary traditions of those countries bordering the
Mediterranean, the committee developed the "Mediterranean Food
Guide Pyramid", the main points of which are summarised as follows:
- plenty of food from plant sources,
including fruit, vegetables, breads and grains, beans, nuts and seeds
- use of Olive Oil replacing other fats and oils
- fresh fruit daily
- Seasonally fresh and locally grown foods in preference to processed
- Saturated fat should constitute less than 20 per cent of total
- small amounts of cheese and yoghurt (containing live cultures which
may contribute to good health)
- daily moderate amounts of fish and poultry weekly and only a few eggs
- very little red meat
- a glass of wine (especially red) with meals as it contains
anti-oxidants and has cholesterol reducing properties (although optional
as there are contraindications for women related to breast cancer)
Natalia Kim is a journalist for http://www.beginning-exercise-and-weight-loss-help.com
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