Mediterranean diet was known as “the poor man’s diet” but it is all the better for it. There wasn’t a lot of meat. There was a bit of fish because fish was more available, but primarily they subsisted on plant foods and legumes as the main source of protein. There were lots of casseroles where in a serve you would get 60 to 70 grams of meat but lots of vegetables. So the casserole was filled with peas and carrots and artichokes and zucchini and then there’s a salad on the side. There was half a kilo of fruit and half a kilo of vegetables eaten per person per day.
Another aspect of the Mediterranean diet that sets it apart from other typical “diets” is that it focuses on foods you can have, not foods you must avoid or limit. People in the Mediterranean region eat many types of foods and focus on deriving pleasure from eating. Usually when people go on “diets” there are food components (mainly fat and/or carbohydrates) or even entire food groups that are either forbidden, or severely restricted. Not so with the Mediterranean eating pattern. To make your diet more Mediterranean, use beans, fish, nuts, and legumes as your main protein sources instead of meat. A few small changes can make your diet more Mediterranean-inspired.
Swap saturated fats (found in meat, dairy, butter, fried dishes, and processed foods) for heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and fatty fish(eg. salmon, sardines). Mediterraneans use olive oil as their main fat source. It contains a compound called oleocanthal, which reduces inflammation. Unlike most eating plans that people turn to for weight loss, the Mediterranean eating pattern does not focus on reducing total fat in the diet, but rather emphasizes choosing healthy fats.
In fact, people in the Mediterranean region consume a large percentage of their calories from fat but they mainly consume unsaturated fat. They limit processed, packaged, “convenience” foods, and they prepare the majority of their meals at home from fresh ingredients.
Toast to the good life and enjoy a glass of Greek wine with your meals. Studies have proven that wine increases your HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and protects against artery damage. If you don’t imbibe, you can reap the same health benefits by adding grapes, cranberries, blueberries or peanuts to your diet. Always drink in moderation.
A study out of Spain found that participants whose diets most closely resembled the Mediterranean diet saw an 83% reduced risk of developed type 2 diabetes compared to those whose diets were least like the Mediterranean eating pattern.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t really a diet, but a lifestyle. Mediterraneans focus on savouring their food in the proper portions, remaining physically active and celebrating relationships with their friends and families. Try it today and enjoy a healthier, tasteful life for you and your loved ones!