What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean region includes Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Egypt and France, and the many other countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The area is rich in olive groves, grape vines, citrus fruit, legumes, wheat and famous greens like Tuscan kale.
The traditional diet of the Mediterranean region has been studied extensively for its many health benefits, including promoting a heart health, weight management, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
The Mediterranean diet has been proven to be one of the best traditional diets for overall health and wellbeing, but, when people think of modern Mediterranean food they immediately think of pizza, pasta, cheese, wine, bread and meat. Yet the traditional Mediterranean diet, the one with the many health benefits, looks quite different from this modern day version.
The traditional mediterranean diet consists of the following key components:
Abundance of Fruits and Vegetables: This diet emphasizes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, which provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibre.
Whole Grains, legume and lentils: Whole grains like whole wheat, barley and oats are staples of the Mediterranean diet. They provide sustained energy and fibre. Legumes and lentils also make up the foundation of the Mediterranean diet but this is often over looked. These versatile, nutrient rich and economical foods should be a staple in every pantry.
Healthy Fats: The diet promotes the consumption of healthy fats, primarily in the form of olive oil. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and has been associated with various health benefits.
Lean Protein: Sources of protein in this diet include fish, poultry, eggs, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), and nuts. Fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.
Moderate Dairy Intake: Dairy products are consumed in moderation, usually in the form of yogurt and cheese.
Herbs and Spices: Herbs and spices are used to flavour dishes instead of excessive salt, contributing to the diet's overall healthfulness.
Red Wine: Moderate consumption of red wine during meals and combined with socialising.
Limited Red Meat: Red meat consumption is limited, and when consumed, it's usually in smaller portions. Instead, the diet places more emphasis on plant-based protein sources and fish.
Social and Mindful Eating: The Mediterranean diet isn't just about the foods you eat; it also emphasizes the social and cultural aspects of dining. Sharing meals with family and friends and practicing mindful eating are important aspects.
Physical Activity: Regular physical activity is strongly encouraged as part of a healthy lifestyle complementing the diet.
It's important to note that the Mediterranean diet is not a strict set of rules but rather a flexible and balanced approach to eating. The emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods, eating seasonally and the inclusion of various food groups contribute to its potential health benefits.
For Mediterranean recipe inspiration please check out these recipes from Jean Jarrett Nutritionist and Naturopath.
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