History has long taken notice of the slim and attractive bodies of men and women from Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Tunisia, Lebanon and Morocco, an area also known as the Mediterranean. Medical professionals have also noted the lesser incidence of heart disease and longer life spans enjoyed by inhabitants of the region.
Mediterranean people have a unique diet, rich in antioxidants and heart healthy oils, which has remained unchanged for more than a millennium. Despite the drastic change in dietary habits in Western countries, Mediterranean men and women continue to consume a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and high in whole grains.
Why Does The Mediterranean Diet Work?
Modern researchers have uncovered the reasons why the classic diet provides such incredible health benefits, and diet programs incorporating the Mediterranean style of eating now flourish. Mediterranean diets focus on the key components of olive oil and fresh, high-quality produce.
Adherents of a Mediterranean diet are encouraged to replace dietary fats and oils with heart-healthy olive oil. Olive oil is rich in vitamins A, B-1, B-2, C, D, E, and K, as well as being high in iron. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol and may protect against ailments like stomach ulcers and constipation.
High consumption of fresh produce is encouraged, with emphasis placed on consuming those fruits and vegetables which are minimally processed and locally and seasonally grown. Whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, also minimally processed, give the Mediterranean diet variety.
Olive Oil and Fats?
Although fresh produce and olive oil (25 to 35 percent of total calories) are the true focus of the Mediterranean diet, lean meats are allowed in moderation, which reflects the eating habits of the Mediterranean peoples. Lean red meat is not off-limits, but followers of the diet should eat read meat sparingly.
Other protein sources like cheese, fish, poultry, and eggs are to be consumed in moderation throughout the week. Yogurt and cheese should be consumed in moderate amounts daily, while fish and poultry are to be eaten in limited servings weekly. Mediterranean dieters are encouraged to eat anywhere from none to 4 servings of eggs each week.
Like Western eaters, the Mediterranean peoples have long enjoyed a little something sweet each day. The Mediterranean diet calls for daily consumption of fresh, unprocessed fruit as a dietary treat. High fat, high sugar, processed sweets should be limited or cut out of the diet entirely.
And You Can Even Drink Wine?
Another health-affirming component of the Mediterranean diet is the addition of moderate amounts of wine. While over-consumption of alcohol is discouraged, Mediterranean dieters may enjoy one or two glasses of wine per day.
Moderate consumption of wine has been found to produce many health benefits, including reduction in incidences of kidney stones and reduction in risk of heart disease. Researchers have also found a link between moderate wine consumption and longevity.
While the Mediterranean way of eating is now supported by current dietary research, many adherents choose the diet for the simplest reason: it’s an enjoyable way to eat.