The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet started getting a lot of attention in the 1990s and it hasn’t really let up since. The diet is promoted as heart healthy by doctors and dietitians and is often recommended to those with high risk factors for heart disease.

The Mediterranean diet is the diet traditionally followed by people living in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Some sources place an emphasis on a few countries and regions in particular including southern, coastal Italy, Crete, and some parts of Greece. UNESCO’s recognition of the diet in November 2010 throws in Spain and Morocco as well.

Proponents of this diet note that the traditional practitioners of the Mediterranean diet get a good deal of regular physical activity. I wish I could quantify “a good deal” and what exactly that physical activity was. Sorry that I can’t at the moment, but we can assume it involves maybe 2 to 4 miles of daily walking and various chores associated with keeping up the farm and home.

The food pyramid for this diet has four parts. The top consists of limited amounts of meats and sweets. The next tier down is poultry and eggs. After that, we have fish and seafood. And finally, we have a base consisting of lots of fresh, leafy green veggies, as well as other types, minimally processed breads, rice, oats and such, fruits, tubers, nuts seeds, legumes, herbs, and spices. The diet also consists of drinking plenty of water and a glass or two of wine a day (usually with meals). Of course the wine part is optional. The diet’s main source of fat comes from olive oil.

The following is nice rundown of the diet:

  • Get your food from an abundant amount of plant sources. These include fruits and vegetables along with potatoes, breads, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Remember, the less processed the better and seasonal, fresh, locally grown foods are awesome.
  • Olive oil is the main fat in the diet. Replace other fats like butter with this.
  • Total fat is from less than 25% to over 35% of energy. Saturated fat should be no more than 7 to 8 percent of calories.
  • Cheese and yogurt are eaten daily but in small to moderate amounts.
  • Low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry are eaten. Research suggests that you should emphasize the fish over the bird. Eat up to seven eggs a week and that includes those used in cooking.
  • Fresh fruit is the typical desert. Stay away from the sweets. Eat them now more than a couple of times a week.
  • Eat red meat only a few times a month.
  • Exercise regularly. Be active.
  • A glass (for women) or two (for men) of wine is normal on the diet, but don’t start consuming alcohol if you don’t already. And remember to drink responsibly.

The Mediterranean diet food pyramid has recently been updated with the addition of herbs and spices. This is for two reasons: for taste and for health. Feel free to investigate herbs and spices on your own. They are essential for every kitchen and can really liven up your cooking. I’ll be doing a separate post on them later anyway, so go ahead and look for that too.