No other diet parallels the consistent improvements to overall health and well being as the Mediterranean diet. Study after study has demonstrated a link between this form of eating and reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and all cause mortality. Quite simply those who eat a Mediterranean style diet live longer healthier lives than those in western counties like America and Australia.
What’s is so special about the Mediterranean diet?
There is no one thing that holds to key to this question. For years researchers have tried to pinpoint a specific food or nutrient to explain the plethora of health benefits. If only it were this easy. The key to the Meditteranean diet rather, is the sum of all the foods that make up this way of life.
Today you will find many variations of this popular diet, however listed are some of the key characteristics as they were first studied in Crete in the 1960s.
– A largely plant based diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, approx. 6-9 serves per day
– Seafood and legumes the preferred source of protein. Minimum intake of red meat.
– Minimal processed or sweet foods
– Plenty of mixed nuts and dried fruit
– Wholegrain breads usually eaten alone or dipped in olive oil
– 1-2 serves of dairy per day, mainly from yoghurt and cheese not milk
– Red wine in moderation
What we can learn from the Mediterranean Diet
One of the trademarks of this diet is the huge variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Our current guidelines suggest we eat 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables per day which Australians will fail to meet. When looking at the Mediterranean diet it’s clear that we should be aiming a lot higher when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
The lack of red meat is another interesting aspect of this diet. Oily fish rich in omega-3 was commonly eaten because it was much easier for locals source and cheaper than red meat and chicken. Legumes were also used as a main ingredient to many dishes which sadly many Australians are missing all together.
Although a total transformation to a Mediterranean style of diet many be a little extreme and difficult given our food supply, there would be few reading this article who wouldn’t benefit from adding more fresh fruit and vegetables to their diet. Aim for 2-3 serves of fruit and 6-7 serves of vegetables everyday. This will be challenging however there are clear health benefits. Also reduce your intake of red meat to a maximum of 1 serve weekly, and make up for this by including more oily fish and legumes. Finally, choose snacks like natural yoghurt, mixed nuts and fresh fruit, and don’t forget to keep active!