The Mediterranean diet is easy to integrate into your diet: it allows great freedom in food choices, as well as a renewed seasonal freshness. Adopting it can be beneficial both from the point of view of health and the quality of gastronomy. It is a diet recommended for anyone who wants to improve the quality and life expectancy and is very suitable for children.
Origin of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean or Cretan diet is inspired by the food traditions of the Mediterranean countries and is still recognized today as one of the healthiest diets.
It takes shape from the culinary customs of 4 countries: Italy, Greece, Spain, and Morocco, all overlooking the Mediterranean basin. It can be traced back to the set of practices and knowledge that those populations have built over the centuries around the culture of eating.
In 2010 UNESCO inscribed the Mediterranean diet in the list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Its nutritional and cultural value as world excellence has thus been recognized.
The value of the Mediterranean diet
The value of the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits have been studied by many studies in recent years. The Mediterranean diet is defined as the nutritional scheme created by the countries of the Mediterranean basin. Each country, depending on its culture, manners, and customs, has variations in terms of the nutritional pattern it follows. Nevertheless, there are some commonalities shared by the people, points that highlight the value of the Mediterranean diet for health.
Regardless of the country, the Mediterranean diet is characterized by daily consumption of cereals, mainly unprocessed, seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as nuts. Olive oil is used as a daily oil, while on a weekly basis fish, large and small, as well as seafood, are consumed. Meat is limited to 1 serving per week or fortnight, while meat products have little to no place in the diet.
As far as alcohol is concerned, it is recommended to consume wine moderately, mainly red, along with meals (up to 2 servings/day for men and up to 1 serving/day for women).
For the sake of convenience, the Mediterranean diet is represented in the form of a pyramid where the food of the base is consumed daily, and food at higher levels is consumed more sparsely.
In a recent revision of the Mediterranean food pyramid, daily exercise, sociability, companionship, engagement with people and activities, adequate rest as well as the abundant consumption of water and herbal infusions were added to its base.
The fundamental principles of the Mediterranean diet
What distinguishes it from all other eating patterns is the correct balance of foods and the choice of foods typical of the Mediterranean area.
The caloric aspect is relegated to a secondary role. It is calculated for an adult man about 2500 daily calories. These must derive 60% from carbohydrates, 20% from lipids, and only 10% from proteins.
The fundamental principles can be summarized in these key points:
- Higher consumption of vegetable proteins than animal ones.
- Reduction of saturated fats in favor of unsaturated vegetable fats.
- Reduction of the global caloric quota.
- Increase in complex carbohydrates to the detriment of simple ones.
- High introduction of dietary fiber.
- Reduction of cholesterol.
- Higher consumption of white meat than red meat (once or twice a week).
- Increased consumption of fish and legumes.
- Occasional consumption of sweets.
The Mediterranean nutritional model also provides for a significant reduction in the consumption of sausages, alcohol, white sugars, butter, fatty cheeses, salt, margarine, coffee, and lard.
How should the Mediterranean diet be treated?
The Mediterranean diet, although called “diet”, is essentially a way of life. Unlike other diets in circulation, the Mediterranean diet is characterized by less stringent guidelines and restrictions on portion sizes and on the calories that are allowed to be consumed.
Therefore, people who choose this dietary pattern, do not necessarily want to lose weight, but they want to change their lifestyle and make it healthier.
But according to some experts, labeling the Mediterranean diet as the golden rule of a healthy lifestyle can lead to the marginalization of people with different nutritional cultures. People who feel excluded from dietary recommendations because of their different nutritional cultures tend to try less to turn to healthier standards.
Based on this, experts should focus more on the aspects of health that are improved through specific diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, and not on the emergence of a particular diet as the golden dietary standard.
Guide To Following The Mediterranean Diet Habits
Since you know all the reasons why you should consider doing this diet, it is time to get down to work and for this, you will be served the following tips
Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables: they are the foods that provide more vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber. Try to consume 5 servings a day.
Start using legumes: many times we believe that if we do not eat meat we are not consuming the necessary protein, but legumes can provide it, especially when we mix them with cereals. Don’t be afraid to eat beans, lentils, soy, beans, and chickpeas.
Yes to cereals: they include oats, wheat, corn, potato, rice, and quinoa among others. These will provide us with the energy our body needs for its daily activities. The secret is in the amount, this will depend on each person but a recommendation is to include 1 or 2 servings per meal, trying to be integral.
Look for good fats: in this part, we highlight olive oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, it is best to use it raw for salads or as a condiment, in this way it will not lose its composition when heated.
Do not be afraid to add egg: it is a food rich in nutrients and protein, you can consume it up to 3 times a week, just do not forget to consult your nutritionist to be more sure of the portions.
Milk and derivatives: they will provide you with a good amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals. We recommend choosing low-fat options such as panela cheese and plain yogurt.
Includes fish: they are another rich source of good fats and protein. Eat them 1 to 2 times a week.
Limit red meats: choose those that are lean and always combine them with vegetables or cereals, so that they are not the main or only food of your meal.
More nuts: they are perfect for times when you have anxiety about eating something in your free time.
What about liquids? The consumption of water should be one of the bases of this diet, the amount will depend on each person and their activities, but try to take around 2 liters per day. On the other hand, wine is also characteristic of the Mediterranean diet, however it is not basic, so you can add it in moderation.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT FORGET
It is important to note that there is no single Mediterranean diet, as foods can change depending on the region in which you are, but without a doubt following these guidelines will help you improve your diet.
The best thing is that it allows you to make many combinations to create recipes with unique flavors and a good nutritional contribution, having a complete, varied, and balanced diet.
Remember that there is no miracle diet, the secret is to lead a healthy life in every way, you can change your habits and combine a good diet with daily physical activity or at least 3 times a week, so you will see really healthy results in many aspects of your life.