The balmy Mediterranean is known for more than its beautiful beaches with their crystal-clear turquoise waters, its rich cultures and diverse languages, but also for its world famous cuisine forming the basis of the Mediterranean Diet.
When one thinks of the term ´Mediterranean Diet´, a variety of things may come to mind. For me, it would be garlic & butter crayfish overlooking a Greek vista; fresh fruit on a warm day and sipping wine in the cooling evening air.
In all honesty, I am not too far off from understanding what a Mediterranean Diet actually is, but a few things can be removed from this romantic image. First of all, you need not actually be in Italy or Greece to adopt this diet yourself; and secondly, butter is a no-no…but more on that a bit later.
So, what exactly is the Mediterranean Diet? Well, the Mediterranean Diet “focuses on the eating habits of the people of Crete, much of Greece, and southern Italy,” but also includes “Spain, southern France, and Portugal,” despite the fact that Portugal doesn´t border the Mediterranean Sea.
The diet is famed for its health and weight-loss benefits and has been used by celebrities like Penélope Cruz and Brooke Burke. Some of the benefits of following this diet, include “its ability to reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease” (as supported by the American Journal of Epidemiology) and despite its exotic-sounding air, can really be incorporated by anyone.
- plant-based foods, i.e. a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
- seeds and nuts (preferably in their rawest form)
- legumes like chickpeas and lentils (etc.)
- whole grains
- lean meat like poultry and fish (which is chock-full of omegas 3 & 6s, which aid in brain health)
- a bit of wine is allowed (as if an invitation is needed 😉 ). Did you know?:”red wine contains flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants“
- red meat is reduced to only being eaten every now and again
- healthy oils, with a key emphasis on olive oil
Unlike the low-carb, high-fat diet or LCHF diet, the Mediterranean Diet encourages the eating of bread (which is good news for someone like me). As the Italian tradition goes, the breads are dipped in and enjoyed with olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar. The best way to enjoy your slice, however, would be in its healthier forms i.e. wholegrain, low-GI varieties, etc. [Check out my recipe for stuffed bread here]
The good news?
These key foods may already be things many of us already have in our kitchens at home.
Below is a nifty little table summing up the above:
(Image source: Mayo Clinic)
Tips for getting the best out of the Mediterranean Diet:
- Stick to healthy fats like olive oil and avoid saturated fats like margarine and butter
- Eat nuts and seeds in moderation as an excess of these result in an excessive intake of calories
- Having an all-round healthy lifestyle is pivotal to practising the Mediterranean diet, so exercise should be done regularly to truly compliment this eating plan and get the results you want.
Chock full of healthy ingredients, encouraging both bread and a bit of wine…the Mediterranean has it all. What more could you want?