The term “Mediterranean diet” was first used by the American nutritionist Ancel Keys in the 1940s (1) . Since the mid-1990s, this power system has been confidently on the list of the most popular in the world.
Despite its name, the diet is not a set of clear recommendations or instructions, but is a generalization of the eating habits of residents of northeastern Spain, southern France, Portugal, Greece, Italy and several other Mediterranean countries.
Versions of the Mediterranean diet vary by region and the list of products available in that region. In this case, the most healthy, Italian, version of the diet, the Italians themselves called " cucina povera ", which can be translated as "the food of the poor."
It must be understood that the inhabitants of post-war Europe replaced red meat with lentils not for reasons of healthy eating, but because of total poverty. The same applies to the modest amount of food consumed - people simply did not have the opportunity to eat more.
The basic principles of diet
The main aspects of the diet are the replacement of animal fats with vegetable oils (mainly olive oil), the consumption of a large number of vegetables, nuts, legumes, unpeeled cereals, daily consumption of fish and seafood.
The consumption of dairy products (milk, cheese and butter) in a typical Mediterranean diet is at an average level, the consumption of meat and poultry, as well as various eggs, is low. In addition, daily consumption of moderate amounts of wine is allowed.
Mediterranean Diet Recipes
It is important to distinguish between Mediterranean cuisine and the Mediterranean diet. As such, the diet never implied specific dishes, since the inhabitants of almost twenty countries of the Mediterranean have historically preferred a rather different diet.
If the French, Spaniards and Portuguese calmly drink wine at lunch and dinner, then in Muslim countries (Egypt, Morocco, Turkey) the use of alcohol is limited by religion. The same applies to pork meat and several other products, including olive oil.
Long-term studies of the Spanish Universidad de Navarra showed that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease by 30%, and the risk of cancer by 24%. In addition, this diet is useful for diabetes and hypertension (2) .
As for the loss of excess weight, the effect is not so clear, because the diet does not imply recommendations regarding the calorie intake and intake of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Most often, health improvement occurred without losing excess weight.
The most important component
Ansel Keys was of the opinion that the most important component of the Mediterranean diet is the replacement of saturated animal fats with more healthy vegetable oils and unsaturated fats prevailing in fish and seafood (3) .
Researchers also note the fact that residents of the Mediterranean coastal countries lead an active lifestyle, doing a lot of daily work and are constantly in motion. In addition, they are much less prone to depression and low mood.
Oleic acid (up to 70% of the volume) contained in vegetable oils in large quantities belongs to Omega-9 unsaturated fatty acids and is a powerful natural antioxidant. It improves metabolism and slows down the aging process.
Olive oil contains a high level of vitamins E and K, which are responsible for the body’s immunity and energy processes. The increased iodine content in seafood is important for a healthy metabolism, and a large amount of fiber of vegetables - for digestion.
The Mediterranean diet is a diet with lots of vegetables, seafood and vegetable fats. Despite the significant benefits of such a diet, this diet only normalizes nutrition, but does not serve the purpose of losing weight.
- Mediterranean diet, Wikipedia Article, source
- Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet, source
- Does the Mediterranean Diet Even Exist, source