The Mediterranean diet was not developed by researchers in scientific laboratories. This nutrition program has been formed over many centuries and is a heritage of different cultures and civilizations. And these are not just beautiful words. In 2013, UNESCO credited the Mediterranean diet to the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. In addition, the UN recognized that, no matter how strange it may sound, but this diet was on the verge of extinction.
What is a Mediterranean diet
Probably, many now remembered crispy French baguettes with cheese, Italian pizza, pasta, wine and were a little taken aback. Somehow these products do not fit into what we are used to hearing about healthy eating. In addition, it is difficult to imagine that such a rich diet can serve as a prevention of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and even be useful for losing weight.
Admittedly, there is nothing surprising in such amazement. In fact, the traditional Mediterranean diet (actually the nutrition system that UNESCO took under its care) has less and less in common with the way the modern inhabitants of the Mediterranean region eat. At the heart of this diet are the principles of nutrition that were observed by the grandfathers and grandmothers of modern Italians and their neighbors. Over the past 50 years, the diet of the inhabitants of the Mediterranean has also come under the influence of globalization.
Specialists in the field of dietetics and health continue to debate what the Mediterranean diet is: which products are authentic and which have already been added under the influence of globalization, how much and which fruits should be consumed, which legumes or cereals are “native” to the Mediterranean . But all this, as they say, is already the details that do not significantly affect the real essence of this power system.
The Mediterranean is an amazing region, which is the "link" between the West and the East. And there is nothing strange in the fact that the food culture in this region is a symbiosis of gastronomic preferences of different peoples of the world. Many of the products that are now considered traditional for the Mediterranean came to Europe from other regions. For example, Egypt made its contribution to the diet in the form of sourdough for bread, the ancient Greeks and Romans elevated the olive tree and grapes to the rank of the sacred. Arabs shared their knowledge about fruits. Thanks to Italy, the Mediterranean diet is rich in aromatic herbs. By the way, wheat, grapes and olives are still considered the “three whales” on which the Mediterranean diet is based. In addition, it would be strange if people who lived on the coast did not eat fish and seafood.
What a diet consists of
Initially, the Mediterranean diet was a set of products that the poor in the region could afford. That is, this is food that people could collect in their gardens, catch in the sea and prepare inexpensive nutritious dishes from it.
The traditional Mediterranean diet consists of the following food groups:
- plant foods (fruits, vegetables);
- whole grain bread, cereals;
- olive oil;
- Fish and seafood.
Cereals and bread
Approximately 55-60% of the total energy value of the diet is provided by products from this group. Cereals have always been an important part of the diet of the inhabitants of the Mediterranean. In their diet, these foods are the main sources of carbohydrates, as well as many vitamins and minerals. In the most ancient times, under the influence of Egypt, wheat got into the Mediterranean and became one of the main crops. A little later, the diet expanded with rice and corn. But traditionally wheat and barley were on the menu, and oats were used mainly as animal feed. Thanks to cereal dishes, the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for the nervous system, heart, blood vessels, digestive organs.
This product is considered the hallmark of the Mediterranean diet. It is the main source of healthy fats, vitamins A and E, oleic acid, phenolic compounds. It is olive oil that makes this diet unique and so beneficial for the body. Research data confirm that regular use of the product effectively protects against heart disease, senile dementia, olive oil serves as a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory agent. In addition, this product makes the Mediterranean diet beneficial for the skin and internal organs.
Vegetables and Beans
Another important component of this ancient nutritional system is vegetables. They serve as an excellent source of fiber, a huge amount of vitamins, micro and macro elements, essential oils and phytocomponents. And legumes that have been grown in the region since ancient times are a storehouse of vegetable protein.
The presence of a large number of vegetables makes the diet absolutely useful for all organs and systems in the human body. Many of the fruits traditional for the Mediterranean possess pronounced healing properties. This category of products is useful for losing weight, lowering cholesterol, regulating the digestive system, maintaining healthy intestinal microflora, and improving the functioning of the cardiac system. Vegetables rich in minerals and vitamins prevent anemia, strengthen immunity, and have the properties of antibiotics, antiviral and anti-cancer agents.
Fruit and honey
The mild Mediterranean climate allows the cultivation of a wide variety of fruits in the region. Grapes, pears, figs, dates, pomegranates, apples, quinces, oranges and many other fruits are very popular among coastal residents. Researchers suggest that the Mediterranean tradition of ending each meal with a fruit dessert has Greek roots. Another useful treat for the inhabitants of the region is honey. This storehouse of useful substances was borrowed from the Egyptians many centuries ago. But traditionally in the Mediterranean it is consumed in small portions and not daily.
Wine and grape
Red wine is one of those ingredients that recognize the traditional Mediterranean diet. Residents of the region at all times loved and regularly consumed wine rich in phytocomponents. And as the results of modern research confirm, this product in moderate portions is useful for the cardiology system, immunity, and also to prevent anemia and cancer. By the way, in ancient times in the Mediterranean, wine was not consumed at all like it is today. Previously, this divine drink was customary to dilute with water and add honey and spices to it.
Today it is allowed to drink 1-2 glasses of drink per day.
Fish and seafood
Since time immemorial, fish, seafood and algae have been the basic foodstuff for the inhabitants of sea coasts. For many centuries, they have served people as a source of iodine, vitamin D, healthy fats and protein. But if previously they used mainly fresh fish, today it is increasingly being squeezed out of the diet by less useful canned foods and semi-finished products.
Meat in the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is not a food system in which meat is the main source of protein. Products from this category, if appear on the menu, are infrequent. As a rule, in the Mediterranean, red meat was consumed very rarely, and, as a rule, in the form of traditional ham. In addition to him, dietary lean poultry sometimes appeared on tables.
The true Mediterranean diet is based on the dietary traditions of 13 countries along the coasts of the sea. This food system has been adhered to for centuries in Italy, Greece, Spain, the south of France and the Balkans, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. But only in the 1960s, researchers drew attention to the fact that residents of the Mediterranean region are less likely to suffer from cardiological diseases, obesity, diabetes and cancer. In addition, their life expectancy is much longer. As it turned out, the reason for this phenomenon lies in the special diet that the local population adheres to. Starting from the second half of the 20th century, researchers from all over the world began to study more seriously the features of this nutrition system and its effect on the human body.
The traditional Mediterranean diet consists of a large number of fresh fruits, fish, olive oil, which, combined with physical activity, have a beneficial effect on health.
Prevents Cardiovascular Disease
The rejection of red meat in favor of seafood, the use of olive oil, a huge amount of fresh vegetables, fruits and a little red wine made the Mediterranean diet incredibly beneficial for the heart and blood vessels. By following this nutritional system, hypertension, atherosclerosis can be prevented, bad cholesterol can be lowered and good cholesterol can be prevented, excessive blood clots can be formed, as well as the development of atherosclerosis. In addition, nutrition through the Mediterranean system improves blood circulation and strengthens blood vessels.
Many people pay attention to the fact that pensioners from the Mediterranean countries look pretty good at their age and lead a very active lifestyle. Researchers attribute this to proper nutrition. The traditional diet of these people is rich in a variety of nutrients that serve as a good source of energy and also support muscle tone.
Increases life expectancy
This advantage is closely related to another plus of the diet - the ability to reduce the risk of cardiological diseases and cancer. Scientific evidence confirms that those who follow the Mediterranean nutritional program are 20% less at risk of sudden death.
Prevents Alzheimer's and degenerative diseases
This nutritional system helps improve cognitive function of the brain, reduces the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, senile dementia, Alzheimer's disease. Researchers attribute this to the consumption of large amounts of olive oil and nuts, which have pronounced antioxidant properties, improve blood supply to the brain, and improve its function. In addition, the Mediterranean diet has neuroprotective properties, which is why it is an effective defense against stroke, peripheral neuropathy, and impaired brain function.
This food system is considered very useful for people of age, as well as for people with low stress resistance.
Protects against respiratory diseases
Recently, researchers are increasingly finding evidence that the Mediterranean principle of nutrition is a good way to boost immunity, as well as protect against lung infections and respiratory diseases. Studies have shown that this diet is very beneficial for smokers, as a special set of products prevents chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Reduces Cancer Risk
This is one of the most famous benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Data from scientific experiments indicate that nutrition according to this scheme can prevent some types of cancer, including the stomach, intestines, and mammary gland.
Protects against diabetes
The prevalence of fiber-rich vegetables in the diet makes it useful for the prevention of diabetes. Dietary fiber helps regulate blood sugar. In addition, nutrition according to this scheme is useful for people already suffering from diabetes, since it reduces the concentration of cholesterol, improves blood circulation, and prevents capillary fragility.
Other useful properties:
- improves the thyroid gland;
- regulates metabolic processes;
- prevents rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults;
- improves bone mineralization.
Is it possible to lose weight on this diet
Studies show that people who follow the Mediterranean diet, also go in for sports, do not have problems with being overweight. And all because the basis of this system are the principles of proper and healthy nutrition.
The basic rules of the Mediterranean diet are to eat fractionally and in small portions. The main emphasis is placed on fiber-rich plant foods and proteins, which are useful for burning fat and gaining muscle mass. Most recipes of Mediterranean cuisine are a healthy combination of meat and plant foods, they contain a minimum of harmful additives and sugar. Another advantage of this food system is the use of a large amount of liquid. Following a diet, you need to drink at least 6 glasses of clean still water daily. And water, as you know, is the best helper for weight loss and cleansing the body of toxins.
Based on the Mediterranean diet, nutritionists have developed stricter diets for weight loss. For example, there is a Three Soups diet, the essence of which is to use one of the traditional dietary soups for the Mediterranean for a certain time (from a week to 21 days): gazpacho, minestrone or pesto. In addition to soups, during the period of weight loss, you can include fish, low-fat cottage cheese, poultry and many vegetables in the menu. And I must say that the reviews about this diet are only positive.
Facts and Myths about the Mediterranean Diet
The fact that the Mediterranean diet is good for health is known to many. But in addition to truthful information, there are many myths about it.
Myth 1: following a Mediterranean diet is expensive
In fact, sticking to the principles of a true Mediterranean diet is not nearly as expensive as some people think. Moreover, initially this diet was a set of products from the diet of the Italian poor. For a modern person, to make his diet closer to the Mediterranean diet, it is enough to enter, for example, dishes from beans or lentils, which will serve as a source of vegetable protein, as well as focus on vegetable vegetables and whole grains. And these products, by the way, are much cheaper than many of the unprofitable, but so loved by us semi-finished products.
Myth 2: red wine is good in any quantity
In reality, only moderate consumption of red wine is beneficial. And what “moderate” means, experts have long determined. For women - this is one glass of wine per day, for men - a maximum of two. Just not exceeding these standards, you can count on the beneficial effects of red wine on the body, in particular on the cardiovascular system.
Myth 3: a large portion of spaghetti and a lot of bread - this is the Mediterranean diet
In fact, it is very difficult to find an Italian who would use huge quantities of pasta. A traditional portion of spaghetti or other pasta is 55-60 g, and a portion of 80 g of pasta is already considered very large. This amount of pasta on a plate will take up very little space. True adherents of the Mediterranean diet will devote most of the plate to fresh vegetables, salads, fish or dietary meat.
They also rarely consume more than one slice of bread, moreover, they choose a product from whole grains.
Myth 4: the Mediterranean diet is just a bunch of foods
The inhabitants of the Mediterranean take the choice of products for their diet very seriously. They carefully think through the menu for the week.And few of them will eat the finished meal in a hurry or in front of the TV. For the Mediterranean, food is an important part of life. But not the most important. Compliance with the Mediterranean diet involves not only the use of a certain list of products, but also the observance of a special way of life, an important part of which is high physical activity.
Myth 5: all vegetable oils are equally good
Vegetable fats are in many cases more beneficial than animals. But in this category there are more and less useful products. The Mediterranean diet is best followed with extra virgin olive or peanut butter. Both products contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which are known for their wide range of beneficial properties. It is better to add olive oil to salads and not expose it to heat. And for frying, it is better to take other types, including peanut, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, cotton, safflower.
How to make your diet Mediterranean
You should never switch to a new power system abruptly. This advice does not lose relevance in the case of the Mediterranean diet. In order for the body to perceive the transition to a new menu painlessly, nutritionists advise observing several rules.
Eat more vegetables. Before transferring the body completely to Mediterranean nutrition, it is advisable to gradually accustom it to the use of a large number of vegetables. The easiest way: replace the usual snacking with salads. For example, instead of sandwiches during the day, you can prepare a more healthy salad of tomatoes, feta and a small amount of olive oil.
In addition to salads, it is important to introduce more vegetable soups into the diet.
Do not skip breakfast. This is one of the most important rules of healthy eating. The Mediterranean diet provides for the right breakfast. That is, the first meal should consist of foods rich in fiber. The best choices are fruits and whole grains. By the way, if your breakfast consists of a cup of coffee and a sandwich, then it is better to use whole grain bread.
Seafood twice a week. And this is one of the favorite tips of all cardiologists. After all, sea fish and shellfish contain a huge amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are indispensable for the healthy functioning of the heart and blood vessels. Tuna, salmon, herring, sardines or cod - a variety of fish does not have much significance, the main thing is that it is marine. In addition to her, it would be nice to pamper the body with mollusks, which also contain a huge amount of useful components.
One day of vegetarianism. This is another trick that will help to accustom the body to eat, like a real resident of the Mediterranean. Once a week, animal products should be completely excluded from the diet. Instead, use beans, cereals and lots of vegetables. When the body gets used to this regimen, you can add another vegetarian day. As for red meat, ideally its consumption should be reduced to 450 g per month, and about 1 kg per 30 days is allowed for chicken.
Eat the right fats. The right fats, from the point of view of nutritionists and adherents of the Mediterranean diet, are olive oil, olives, avocados, nuts, seeds. From these products, the body will receive all the necessary fatty acids and avoid harmful saturated fats. You should gradually accustom the body to olive oil, replacing it with other more common types of vegetable fat.
Do not forget about dairy products. Dairy products contain some substances that the body cannot get from other foods. In the Mediterranean diet, as the most useful nutritional system, cheeses are not excluded (remember at least France with its amazing blue cheese or Italy with its mozzarella or parmesan), yogurts (the most popular Greek) and other dairy products. But they should not be abused either. 1 glass of yogurt or milk and about 30 grams of cheese per day are considered healthy.
And for dessert - fruits. Ice cream, cakes with greasy creams, pastry - all this is prohibited. Instead of these harmful desserts, slender, healthy residents of the Mediterranean region choose strawberries, fresh figs, grapes, apples and other goodies.
How to make the right menu
Mediterranean cuisine is unique in that it is both very healthy and incredibly tasty. This is the case when we eat delicacies and at the same time lose weight, strengthen our health, improve our appearance.
Recommended daily servings of foods:
- vegetables - 100 g of leafy vegetables and 50 g of others;
- potatoes - 100 g;
- legumes - 100 g;
- nuts - 30 g;
- fruit - 1 apple, 1 banana, 1 orange, 200 g of melon or watermelon, 30 g of grapes (optional);
- fish (or lean meat) - 60 g;
- cereals - 50-60 g of pasta or rice, 25 g of bread;
- dairy products - 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 30 g of cheese;
- eggs - 1 piece;
- wine - 125 ml of dry red wine.
Sample menu for a week in the table
|Breakfast||A glass of milk, bread with olive oil and a few slices of cheese, an apple|
|Dinner||Arugula Salad, Turnip Soup, Spinach Potatoes, Baked Mackerel, Fruits|
|Snack||Whole grain slice with apricot jam|
|Dinner||Omelet with asparagus, medlar|
|Breakfast||Hercules with Greek yogurt and strawberries, mint tea|
|Dinner||Tomato salad, fried chicken, chickpeas with spinach, persimmon jelly|
|Dinner||Escalivada, a slice of whole grain bread with tomatoes, tuna with goat cheese, 2-3 apricots|
|Breakfast||A glass of milk, several slices of cheese, whole grain bread, peach|
|Dinner||Gazpacho, omelette, fruit|
|Snack||Cottage cheese with walnuts and honey|
|Dinner||Omelet with broccoli, zucchini puree, bunch of grapes|
|Breakfast||100 ml of orange juice, granola, a glass of milk or herbal tea|
|Dinner||Couscous, stewed mushrooms with garlic, sardines, baked apple|
|Dinner||Hummus, almond angler, 2-3 plums|
|Breakfast||Carrot and apple juice, milk pudding|
|Dinner||Garlic soup, gnocchi with pesto sauce, fried dorado, endive salad, fruits|
|Snack||Cheese bread, a handful of cherries|
|Dinner||Omelet with artichoke, peach|
|Breakfast||Slice of whole grain bread, tomatoes, mozzarella|
|Dinner||Baked lamb meat, salad, rice, grapefruit|
|Dinner||Whole grain bread, cheese with nuts, papaya|
|Breakfast||Muesli, Greek Yogurt, Apple Juice|
|Dinner||Tomato soup, fried salmon with sour cream sauce, salad, rice|
|Snack||Low-fat cheese, a slice of bread|
|Dinner||Lentils with vegetables, mint tea|
Canned olives, baked artichokes, stuffed eggplants, stewed asparagus and fried broccoli, mushroom dishes, hundreds of varieties of salads and soups, as well as a lot of fish and seafood dishes. All this and many more other dishes are Mediterranean food. Based on the huge list of foods allowed in the diet, it’s not difficult to create original menus for a week or longer. But it is important to consider that a daily nutrition plan should consist of 4-5 meals.
The Mediterranean diet is not just a set of products, but a lifestyle, adhering to which you can significantly improve your health, get rid of extra pounds and become a connoisseur of healthy and tasty food. Many celebrities build their food system based on the Mediterranean diet. They say that the stellar beauties Penelope Cruz, Britney Spears and Cindy Crawford have been keeping fit for more than a year using this power system.