For our health, let’s eat Mediterranean. These are the conclusions of a growing number of studies that focus on the multiple benefits of this dietary pattern, namely the preventive effect of cardiovascular diseases and brain aging. As stated by EUFIC, the Mediterranean diet is based on traditional eating habits from the 1960s in Mediterranean basin countries and encourages the consumption of fresh, seasonal and local foods. What exactly does it consist of? It is essentially composed of whole grains rich in fiber, vitamins from groups B and E, minerals and essential fatty acids, fresh fruits and vegetables, with a place of choice for legumes as well as oilseeds and spices and aromatic herbs. Products of animal origin (mutton, lamb, poultry, beef, fish, eggs and pork) are consumed in moderate quantities, while dairy products from cows, goats or sheep occupy a modest place. Finally, refined sugars are often absent in favor of natural sugars (honey, agave syrup, etc.). Without forgetting the star: olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (omega-9) and antioxidant vitamin E.
Thus, the Mediterranean diet is based mainly on vegetable ingredients, which makes it low in fat and animal protein. On the other hand, it is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins. But according to the European Food Information Council, it is not a diet in itself, but rather a set of eating habits marked by local and cultural differences across the Mediterranean region. This is also the observation of the Assurance Prévention associationwhich highlights that “ The Mediterranean diet, classified as intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO under the name Mediterranean diet, brings together the traditional eating habits of several Mediterranean countries (Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco and Portugal) “, the organization still commenting” It is difficult to directly measure the effects of the Mediterranean diet on health for several reasons, namely because this name hides different types of diet depending on the country studied. »
The Mediterranean diet is not just Italy and Greece
And it’s this common misunderstanding that can keep your followers from making the most of their health, according to Suzy Karadsheh, founder of the food blog Mediterranean Dish and author of the bestselling cookbook of the same name. “ The biggest misconception about the Mediterranean diet is that most people immediately think of Southern Europe, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it is a limited idea. “,she told the website Business Insider. It turns out that the Mediterranean is a space shared by 24 states (including parts of North Africa and the Middle East) from 3 continents, bringing together more than 400 million inhabitants. This implies a wide variety of cultural and culinary influences, particularly from Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. In other words, dishes inspired by the Mediterranean diet are not limited to those from Greece, Italy or Spain. “Exploring the full variety of the Mediterranean diet can help you make the most of it with varied, healthy meals. » highlights Suzy Karadsheh.
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Certainly, traditional diets in Italy and Greece have an attractive reputation, in part because two regions of these countries are known to belong to the “blue zones,” or the few regions in the world where the longevity of inhabitants clearly increases. medium: Icaria in Greece and Sardinia in Italy (more precisely a mountainous region, the Nuoro). But be careful not to confuse the Mediterranean diet with stereotypical Italian cuisine, according to the expert. “ Think piles of pasta, generous layers of parmesan and mozzarella, and lots of wine. This misunderstanding can also lead to confusion about why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy. While cheese is a delicious part of the Mediterranean diet, it’s not all about creamy linguine. Instead, think vegetables, spices, citrus fruits and lots of legumes, like in Turkish lentil soup. What these cuisines have in common, however, is an emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients and unprocessed foods.
“People are missing out when they don’t explore all aspects of this diet”
In addition to this particularity, there is also a strong culture of enjoying meals with friends and family, but not only because some studies have also shown that the populations studied may have other lifestyle habits that positively influence their health, such as the level of physical activity and the amount of food eaten. The EUFIC thus specifies that “ the emphasis is on social and cultural aspects such as communal meals, rest after meals and regular physical activity. » So many good habits that, together, have a positive effect on healthy life expectancy. “ I feel like people are missing something when they don’t explore all aspects of this diet and the variety of ingredients, flavors, cooking techniques and traditions that the countries surrounding the Mediterranean have built together. Specific recipes and herb and spice blends may vary between countries and cuisines, but the basic ingredients of the Mediterranean diet are simple, fresh and minimally processed. », confirms the expert.
We should therefore not deprive ourselves of being inspired by recipes from the culinary cultures of all these countries, knowing that each one is characterized by slightly different eating habits, as well as environmental and social influences. EUFIC warns, however, that this eating method is no longer as widespread today as it was 30-50 years ago for the simple reason that “ The diet of the inhabitants of this region is increasingly “westernized” and rich in energy-rich foods. » However, the Mediterranean diet was chosen as the best diet to follow in 2024, according to US News and World Report…and this for the seventh consecutive year. The rankings were determined by a panel of health, nutrition, heart health, diabetes and weight loss experts who analyzed nearly thirty popular diets according to several criteria, including their short- and long-term weight loss potential and the its potential to influence certain chronic diseases. And good news, the Mediterranean diet also came in first place in the “easiest diet to follow” category.