People hear the phrase ‘Mediterranean Diet’ and they are looking for a standard diet plan. Unfortunately, this is a case of mistaken identity. The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits that are adhered to by those living in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean Sea has 10 countries surrounding it and while they all have their own idiosyncrasies to their diets, they share the common emphasis on cereals, nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables and of course Olive oil.
Monounsaturated fats in olive oil:
When researches try to figure out why the Mediterranean diet is so successful as related to people’s health, the first thing they look at is olive oil as it is usually the sole fat used in food preparation. It is a rare case that you will find someone in this region using something like butter. The fact that it is rich in monounsaturated fats is further enhanced with it also being a great source of antioxidants which are proven to help in heart disease and other major health issues. You must remember, they use this for everything from preparing sauces and vegetables to frying fish and it is the key ingredient to their salad dressings.
Compared to other regions, the people of the Mediterranean experience a much lower rate of heart disease. Research has been focused in this area for some time and it has been found that one of the major reasons is the type of diet that they have.
The Mediterranean diet features:
- Low amounts of alcohol
- Intake of large amounts of foods rich in antioxidants
- Small or limited portions of red meat
- Grilled and steamed fish in moderation
- Moderate consumption of olive oil as it pertains to fresh vegetables and dressings
- Large consumption of legumes and vegetables (5 different varities) and fruits (about 4 servings per day)
- Large quantities of potatoes, bulgur, rice, pasta, breads, polenta, and couscous
- Exercise is also a large part of their daily routines
The people of Spain, Southern France, North Africa (mostly Morocco and Tunisia), Portugal, the Balkans, Turkey, other regions of the Middle East and Italy all have a diet that is a variation of the Mediterranean diet.