The Mediterranean diet is based on healthy food such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs, cereal, and olive oil. It holds roots in the traditional food of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The countries of the Mediterranean basin include the European Mediterranean countries from Spain to Greece, a portion of the Middle East (Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine), and the northern African countries from Egypt to Morocco.
The Mediterranean Diet is the Fruit of Crossing Cultures
The Mediterranean Diet is a blend of traditional aromatic and healthy food. This geographical zone has witnessed throughout history and intense human activity. Various civilizations and cultures have emerged into the lands of the basin. Romans, Greeks, Persians, Ottomans, and Arabs among others contributed massively to what is today the Mediterranean diet. From ancient times to the middle ages then to modern ages, the Mediterraneans’ kept the wealth and secrets of the food of each people.
The Mediterranean diet had become a way of life. For years, it has been passed on from generation to generation. It is a blend of food cultures, skills, traditions, knowledge, and importations of different communities. It is worth mentioning that the people living in the basin have a strong connection with nature. So, food in this region is tremendously influenced by nature and plants, as it revolves around vegetables, fruits, and olive trees and plants.
Living abroad, every time I craved a Mediterranean dish from my homeland I always called my grandmother who lived in Lebanon for some cooking tips. She always gave me the authentic recipe that she had inherited from her mother. The dishes I prepared turned out to be mouth-watering and light, also, filled me enormously. Still, nothing beats my grandma’s cooking.
Why is the Mediterranean Diet Light, Filling, and Delicious?
The Mediterranean diet contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish (white and oily) such as sardine and salmon, whole-grain cereal such as wholemeal bread and brown rice, beans such as chickpeas and lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds. It also comprises small amounts of lean meat and low-fat dairy. Every meal contains olive oil, fresh herbs, onions, and garlic. The knowledge of herbs the old ladies know in this region of the world is impressive.
Also, people think that wine is an essential component of the Mediterranean diet. It is indeed heart-healthy when we consume it moderately.
The Oldways food pyramid for the Mediterranean diet showcases what to eat. One should enjoy whole-grain foods at almost every meal as well as olive oil. The olive tree is almost the symbol of the Mediterranean area. Mediterraneans only cook with olive oil they even fry with it. Nowadays, if olive oil is not available any oil derived from plants such as canola or sunflower oil could work.
People in the basin are blessed with seasonal vegetables and fruits. They consume it abundantly. Also, nuts and seeds are part of their daily eating habits. The Mediterranean diet supports a very low intake of red meat and processed carbs. However, you can still enjoy your pasta and pizza by adding to it lots of veggies. Make sure to order it whole grain. The Mediterranean diet recommends eating poultry, eggs, and dairy very moderately. Yet, lean red meat is appropriate once a week or occasionally. And most of all, make sure to stay active every day, as physical movement is an essential element of the Mediterranean diet to stay healthy.
Hence, the Mediterranean diet is not a structured diet tailor-made for you to lose weight. It is a lifestyle, a graceful way of living.
What are the Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
Various studies showed that the people living in the Mediterranean region are less likely to face cardiovascular diseases and strokes or even diabetes. The main components that make this diet unique and comprehensive are:
- Healthy fats: These are fats contained in olive oil, avocado nuts, and fish (salmon, tuna, sardine) which is a principal source of Omega 3.
- Proteins: Protein is found in poultry, eggs, dairy (in smaller portions), or in meat occasionally. Fish and seafood are a great source of protein too.
- Fiber: Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, whole grain (whole wheat bread and pasta), and nuts.
- Antioxidants: These are usually found in berries.
The Mediterranean diet is complete with lots of water and coupled with daily physical activity. Getting the most of the Mediterranean diet relies on all foods combined and not only one. Switching to this plan reduces the level of cholesterol which prevents cardiovascular diseases and strokes. It permits the control of the level of sugar in the blood. Needless to mention that it prevents diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. It will help you regulate your weight, although it is not the main purpose, you will take control over your lifestyle and become the healthier version of yourself.
Whether you are vegetarian or vegan, the Mediterranean diet is perfect for you as it provides you with the necessary vitamins, proteins, and fiber. Your body will all the necessary nutrients to function properly. In addition to your physical health, you will mentally feel serene and at peace.
When it comes to the Mediterranean diet it is not only about the food. It is also about the habits of the people in the region. It’s about eating slowly, altogether, converse over delicious Mediterranean food and a sip some good wine. Hence, one who follows a Mediterranean diet will enjoy a chill lifestyle.
Switching to the Mediterranean Diet
If you decide on switching to the Mediterranean diet, here are some tips for food choices:
- Enjoy lots of seasonal vegetables within your meals and have fruits as dessert.
- Buy whole-grain bread, rice, and pasta.
- Eat more fish and seafood.
- Eat red meat occasionally.
- Consume a moderate amount of dairy products.
- Eat unprocessed food.
- Enjoy nuts as snacks.
- Make sure to spice up your food!
- Drink more water and less wine.
- Go for a morning jog, do yoga or whatever activity that makes you feel good.
The Mediterranean diet is more than a diet, it's a way of living.