My diet is the Mediterranean diet, which is good food. I eat well.
Everyone has heard about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. This term first appeared in the middle of the last century, when researchers found a lot in common in healthy food ration and lifestyle of the inhabitants of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. Healthy food daily consumption was related to their well-known longevity and health.
Since then, the Mediterranean diet has been closely studied all over the world by both specialists and just people who want to build a well-balanced healthful food ration in order to live a long and happy life. Read below the principles of the Mediterranean diet. If you wonder where to find healthy food if you live not in Athens, but in New York, in such a case you have Uncle Gussy’s and its totally delicious Greek menu.
Developing healthy food habits: where the name of the diet derives from?
Despite its name, the Mediterranean diet is more like a set of eating habits than a specific system or dietary instruction. These eating principles are peculiar to the inhabitants of the Mediterranean region; therefore the diet is called so. Its popularity is easy to explain: residents of southern France consume a fairly large amount of fat but have lower rates of cardiovascular disease than, for example, residents of the United States.
The main principles of the Mediterranean diet
Today, the Mediterranean diet is an established concept that is based on the eating habits of the inhabitants of the Mediterranean coast. These habits were analyzed and compiled into a convenient system that anyone can follow. Of course, the food traditions of the Mediterranean countries differ due to culture, ethnic background and religion. However, they have similar details.
Briefly, we can formulate the principles of this diet as follows:
- High consumption of monounsaturated fats. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and other sources of monounsaturated fats are actively used in cooking. It takes up to a third of the daily calories.
- Less meat, more vegetables. Traditionally, meat in the countries of the Mediterranean region was a festive, not an everyday meal.
- Frequent fish and seafood eating. Marine sources of protein in the Mediterranean diet play the role of a substitute for meat, so they are eaten quite often.
- High consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. The constant presence of vegetable and vegetarian dishes on the Mediterranean table is conditioned by a good climate. Fresh fruit is a daily dessert in this diet.
- Average consumption of milk products. The main milk products that are consumed in the Mediterranean countries are cheese and yogurt. Thus, it is no coincidence that these countries have the largest variety of cheeses in the world.
- Moderate alcohol consumption. Residents of the Mediterranean region, as a rule, drink regularly, but little by little. Usually, they have one or two glasses of wine at lunch and dinner.
- Physical activity. Although this aspect is not directly related to diet, people of the Mediterranean region usually maintain an active lifestyle, spending a lot of time outdoors.
Taking these rules into account when drawing up your healthy food daily menu, you can adhere to the Mediterranean diet, regardless of where you actually live. What will it give you? Fortunately, to date, research on this diet is more than enough, so we can be sure that the below information is correct.
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet
Scientists and nutritionists have repeatedly conducted studies to detect the components of the diet that produce such a strong medical effect. The laurels were given to oily fish, seafood, olive oil, red wine and other healthy food. Nevertheless, systematic studies have shown that individual components cannot be distinguished. But it is impossible to challenge the general positive effect.
So, Mediterranean food:
- contributes to the functioning of blood vessels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease;
- prevents inflammatory processes and restores damaged cells;
- reduces the risk of cancer, as well as diseases such as diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, and others.
Based on the general principles of the Mediterranean diet, the WHO developed nutritional guidelines to reduce the risk of heart disease. In 2010, UNESCO recognized the Mediterranean diet as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and a cultural and health model.
Spanish scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Navarra went even further by studying 11.000 people and found that those who followed the Mediterranean diet principles were at a 30% lower risk of depression. The reasons for this, however, are not completely clear, but scientists have suggested that reducing the risk of depression is one of the consequences of the fact that the products included in the diet improve the functioning of blood vessels and fight inflammation.
If you want to start a healthy food diet, but don’t know how
Of course, it’s quite difficult to rebuild your diet at once, especially if you have never done this before. Therefore, below we will provide some tips and recommendations for those who want to start eating healthier.
Typical Mediterranean foods:
- olive oil and olives;
- fresh vegetables: tomatoes, eggplant, bell pepper, zucchini;
- garlic and onions;
- fish and seafood;
- greens: thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil;
- white bread, pasta, rice;
- red wine (in some countries).
Buy some olive oil
Use olive oil for seasoning salads, spray it on fresh and cooked vegetables, pasta, cereals, fish, dip bread in it. Good olive oil is a universal seasoning that fits literally everything, so the main thing here is to develop a habit. But frying on expensive and high-quality oil is worth it only when you cook on low heat, in other cases use refined vegetable oil or butter.
Everything is clear here. Olive oil is made from olives, which means that the olives themselves also contain those monounsaturated fats that make it so useful. It is enough to eat seven olives a day to get a full range of the beneficial substances they contain. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be difficult; most adults love olives, but if this statement is not about you, add olives to salads, sauces, stews or fresh cheeses.
Eat more fish
Forget about outdated recommendations that you should eat fish at least once a week. You should eat fish much more often – at least 3-4 times a week, which means that you should improve your skills in choosing, buying and cooking fish. When choosing between sea and river fish, give preference to a sea one; between wild and cage fish, choose a wild one. Frozen fish, if unfrozen correctly, is not much worse than fresh fish, but it is much more affordable.
Eat mоre vegetables
Many think that vegetables mean either a salad or a side dish, but this opinion needs to be changed. Make it a rule to cook one or two dinners a week entirely from vegetables and legumes. This does not mean that you have to become a pure vegetarian if you are not. You can surely add some cheese or a little ham. But upon revealing the potential of vegetables as a product, you will begin to enjoy them. It would be nice, of course, to use fresh and seasonal vegetables, but in winter even our pickles will perfectly fit into the Mediterranean diet.
Pasta is not bad
In one of the countries that offered us the Mediterranean diet, in Italy, pasta is considered a pillar of local cuisine: it is served before the main course and after cold dishes called antipasti, which means “before the pasta”. There is absolutely no need to exhaust yourself preparing three or four-course dinners on a daily basis. Even Italians are not doing this anymore. But it is quite worth discovering the pasta as a separate dish. You can start with recipes for classic Italian or Greek sauces, giving preference to pasta made from durum wheat: it contains more nutrients and is better digested.
Eat less sugar
If you cannot imagine a day without a sweet bun or cake, you will have a hard time. The fact is that in the Mediterranean diet, dessert is often replaced by fresh berries and fruits, which contain fiber and a number of vitamins and nutrients. The good news is: in reasonable quantities, you can eat fruits every day, but it is better to reduce the consumption of other sweets to one or two times a week if you cannot live without them.
The word “diet” in many of us is associated with a constant feeling of hunger and the need to limit ourselves in our desires for the sake of some ephemeral result. But the Mediterranean diet is completely different. In the Mediterranean countries, they know a lot about good healthy food and pleasure to have a tasty dinner, gathering the whole family at the table. In fact, the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle promising health and longevity and is suitable for every one of us. Uncle Gussy’s menu is based exactly on this healthy food.