The Mediterranean Diet is one of the most popular diets in the world thanks to the amount of benefits and properties attributed to it. In addition to the richness of its recipes, ingredients, elaborations… that everyone who tries it falls in love with. It is the cuisine, recipes, ingredients, and habits that have been followed for centuries in all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Join us to know all its characteristics and the benefits of following the Mediterranean diet. In addition, we will see some curiosities and some ideas to follow it.
This diet has been followed for centuries in Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain. It is based on fresh, quality, natural and organic foods. Where vegetables, legumes and fruits predominate. Also highlighting the quality meats and fish that we have in these lands. And, of course, without forgetting one of our emblems, the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Icon of the Mediterranean Diet and Spanish Gastronomy.
Did you know that the Mediterranean Diet has been the subject of numerous studies that support its health benefits? It has been proven that following this diet prevents the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases, reduces the risk of suffering diabetes and is a great ally for weight control. It is also associated with greater longevity. But, later on, we will see in detail all the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.
But what is the Mediterranean Diet?
According to the website of its foundation: The Mediterranean Diet Foundation, it is “a balanced lifestyle that gathers recipes, ways of cooking, celebrations, customs, typical products and diverse human activities.”
That is to say, it is not only our recipes, dishes, ingredients… It also encompasses customs, activities, celebrations….
Since our pleasant climate, among the customs and traditions, leads us to enjoy the food in a family atmosphere. Here, any celebration is made around food. And eating is a pleasure, to which we dedicate time. Both in preparing it and enjoying it.
As for food, we can summarize the Mediterranean Diet as a diet based on fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and meat. And it is characterized by a low consumption of sugars and processed foods.
The Mediterranean Diet was named Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in November 2010.
To understand the importance of this diet it is enough to know that, since 2010, it is Intangible Cultural Heritage of Unesco. This recognition was made due to the historical, cultural and social importance of the Mediterranean Diet.
Unesco also highlights the Mediterranean Diet as a model of healthy and sustainable food. This is why it is essential to make it known and promote its consumption and preservation.
Some Principles of the Mediterranean Diet:
Now that we have seen what the Mediterranean Diet is and what it consists of, let’s look at some of its basic principles.
- One of the keys to this diet, and the reason why it is so healthy for our health, is that it is based on consuming a large amount of fruits and vegetables. Emphasizing, above all, seasonal foods.
- Regarding the consumption of cereals, which are at the base of the food pyramid of this diet, always prioritize the consumption of whole grains. Remember to avoid any refined food, such as white breads and pasta.
- We must consume legumes and nuts on a regular basis. Since they are very healthy and essential foods for our organism.
- The main source of fat consumed in countries that follow the Mediterranean Diet is olive oil. Known as the liquid gold of our land, and it is not for less. Did you know that in Mediterranean countries we consume more fat than in the United States? However, the incidence of cardiovascular diseases is much lower. This is due to the quality of the fat we consume thanks to olive oil.
- To follow a Mediterranean diet we have to eat a moderate amount of fish, eggs, poultry, etc. And reduce the consumption of red meat and sausages, of which less than two portions a week are recommended.
What foods are part of the Mediterranean Diet?
Although the Mediterranean diet is formed by the gastronomy of different countries, and in each place they have their own ingredients and ways of cooking, we can, in a generalized way, see which foods are part of this diet.
At the base of the pyramid we would find those characteristics of the Mediterranean Diet that are independent of food. Such as physical activity, biodiversity and seasonality of products, always prioritizing local, environmentally friendly products, etc. And, as we said, the Mediterranean diet goes beyond a few recipes exclusively.
On the next step, as a base, we would find cereals such as bread, pasta, rice… Always opting for whole grains. And, of which are recommended between one and 2 servings at each main meal.
The key foods to follow the Mediterranean diet are fruits and vegetables.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, which should also be present in each main meal. And where we have to take into account that we have to take vegetables and fruits both cooked and raw. Hence the importance of varying the recipes, including salads in the meals, etc.
On the next step we would find nuts, seeds, olives… of which one to two servings a day are recommended. In addition to dairy products, which are also two servings a day. Here it is preferable to choose low-fat dairy products.
It is also very important to highlight here the use of spices, aromatic herbs, etc., to aromatize and flavor the food in a more natural and healthy way and thus reduce the use of salt.
And, in the last steps, we would finish with white meats, fish and seafood, of which 3 servings a week are recommended, as well as legumes. Eggs are also very important in our gastronomy, of which it is advisable to take between 2 and 4 servings a week.
In the penultimate step is red meat, of which less than two servings a week are recommended, and potatoes, about 3 servings. And finally, sweets, of which we should eat less than two servings a week.
This beautiful and practical chart shows us in a very visual way how to elaborate our weekly menu. If we take into account these recommendations, we will be following the Mediterranean diet, and our diet will be more varied and healthy.
It also emphasizes the importance of eating traditional dishes. Following this diet does not mean not being able to make casseroles. In fact, they are fundamental and have been a very important part of the Mediterranean Diet for centuries and centuries.
Benefits of following the Mediterranean Diet
As we have already mentioned, the Mediterranean Diet has been the subject of study on countless occasions. That is why we know with certainty and all its benefits have been demonstrated.
- The main benefit of following this type of diet is the control of obesity. Since it does not include consumption of processed or precooked foods; and the consumption of sweets is reduced to less than two servings per week. It is a diet rich in fiber, healthy fats, with foods with few calories….
- It has also been shown that following this diet reduces the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, stroke, or coronary heart disease. This is due to the consumption of healthy fats, among others, (again, olive oil, rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) that help reduce LDL cholesterol levels (known as bad cholesterol and closely related to this type of diseases).
- The Mediterranean Diet is very beneficial for our bone health. It is rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, three very important nutrients for our bones.
The Mediterranean Diet has many benefits for our health
- It is a good diet for memory. With this type of diet we will not only have a healthy body, but also a healthy and renewed mind. Many studies have shown that this diet improves our cognitive function. In addition, being a diet rich in fruits with a high intake of vitamin C and green leafy vegetables, which provide antioxidants; two very important ingredients for the health of our brain.
- It is also associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Although it is true that it is a very bold statement, it has been observed that those who follow this diet have less risk of suffering some types of cancer.
- The Mediterranean diet improves brain health. It is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and it is also associated with better cognitive function and a lower risk of depression.
- And finally, it is also related to the prevention of type 2 diabetes, as it improves insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance. This is due to the high consumption of fiber-rich foods, which help us to reduce glucose spikes after meals and regulate blood sugar levels; in addition to a limited consumption of sugars.
So how to follow this type of diet?
Remember that the Mediterranean diet is not only a set of recipes. It encompasses many more lifestyle habits. So, in addition to being willing to follow this type of diet we must also combine it with physical activity.
To follow a Mediterranean diet it is very important to consume fruits and vegetables. It is recommended at least two fruits and two vegetables in each main meal, and always varying between all that offers us the season in which we are. Sometimes cooked and sometimes raw, as in salads.
Every day we must include in our diet two servings of dairy products (always opting for those reduced in fat); and between one and two servings of nuts, seeds or olives. Do not forget legumes, such as chickpeas, beans, lentils… which are rich in protein, fiber and other nutrients. Remember to include them in your menu twice a week.
And a week is very important to add to the diet 2 or more servings of fish or seafood, as well as legumes. From 2 to 4 eggs a week, and 2 servings of white meat.
Potatoes will be consumed at most three times a week, and red meat, less than two servings a week. As you can see, these products that are at the top of the pyramid are the most sporadic. Do not abuse them.
Remember also to forget about processed foods. Try to make sure that everything you eat is fresh, and prepared by yourself. If you follow these tips and keep in mind the food pyramid of the Mediterranean diet, you will notice how your health improves.
Mediterranean Diet Day
And, now that we know the Mediterranean Diet in depth, did you know that it even has its own day in the calendar?
Indeed, every November 13th is commemorated the World Day of the Mediterranean Diet. A date created in order to promote the benefits of this type of food, to make it known and encourage its consumption around the world. Because, remember that besides being very beneficial for us and for our health, it is also a very environmentally friendly diet.
On this day you can find in different places a multitude of activities all related to the Mediterranean diet: outdoor activities, such as hiking and bike rides; talks and lectures about this diet and this way of life; food tastings and typical products of the Mediterranean diet, where, of course, highlights the Extra Virgin Olive Oil … And many more activities.
But, in addition to November 13, we find the Mediterranean Diet Week, which is celebrated the last week of September, created by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Another way to commemorate this way of life, which promotes an active lifestyle and socializing around food. For, remember, in Mediterranean countries there is a custom of celebrating everything around the table, always with food in between. Because here, eating is an art, and even more so if it is with your loved ones.
And, to say goodbye, let’s take a look at some curiosities about this magnificent diet. For example, did you know that the term Mediterranean Diet was coined by the American physiologist Ancel Keys? It was in the 1950s, after an in-depth study of the dietary habits of the Mediterranean peoples.
Red wine is a major player in this diet. It is consumed in moderation and it is believed that it can contribute to improve cardiovascular health, due to the antioxidants it provides.
The most typical or emblematic foods of the Mediterranean Diet are olive oil and fish. Although, as soon as we mention this diet, a multitude of fruits and vegetables come to mind, since they are the basis of this diet.
In addition to food, a fundamental part of the Mediterranean diet is the association of meals with celebrations and socializing. It is common for meals to be leisurely, long, and often festive.
And with this we finish knowing this fantastic and healthy diet. And you, do you follow it? If so, remember to leave us your comments, ideas, tips… We love to read you! And don’t forget to follow us on social networks to keep up to date with all our publications. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.