Perhaps the world’s healthiest diet, the Mediterranean Diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil. It features fish and poultry—lean sources of protein—over red meat, which contains more saturated fat. Red wine is consumed regularly but in moderate amounts.
To get a better understanding of the concept of the Mediterranean diet, we have to go back to the 60s of the 20th century, when Ancel Keys, professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota, carried out an extensive epidemiological study called “Study of the 7 countries.” It was then that it was shown that there was a clear correlation between diet and the health of its population.
It was observed that of the seven countries analyzed (Greece, Italy, ex Yugoslavia, Holland, Finland, United States and Japan) the Mediterranean countries, especially in Greece and southern Italy, that had a diet with common nutritional characteristics, the trilogy of their traditional crops: wheat, olive and vine). It showed that these countries had a below-average frequency of coronary diseases and degenerative diseases, and therefore a longer life expectancy.
In addition, later research suggested that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may be as well, improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of depression, to name a few. Eating like a Mediterranean has also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
After this discovery, the study deepened into the eating habits of the Mediterranean countries, to be able to adapt them as a healthy diet. Here some tips that are recommended:
1. Eat seasonally – and all day long – Fresh, nonstarchy produce is the star of this diet. Eat 5 to 10 fruit and vegetables servings a day (a half-cup cooked or 1 cup raw equals one serving). Pick vegetables in a variety of colours to get a range of antioxidants and vitamins.
2. Get grain-wise – Refined carbs lack nutrients and can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Whole grains are best; have four small daily portions of whole-wheat bread, or try a pasta made from quinoa.
3. Switch up your proteins – Get your source of protein by swapping out most of your red meat and get your protein from skinless chicken and turkey, fish, beans, nuts and other plants. By displacing red meat, you’ll lower your saturated-fat intake. Aim to eat fish of any kind—except for fried, of course—twice a week. Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna are especially good choices: they are rich in omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, linked with improved heart health.
4. Choose healthy fats – Replace butter and margarine with olive oil as the main source of fat. Olive oil delivers healthy monounsaturated fats and plant compounds called polyphenols.
5. Moderate consumption of wine, accompanying the main meals of the day – Research indicates that people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who abstain. Alcohol appears to raise “good” HDL cholesterol. Wine, in particular, “thins” the blood (making it less prone to clotting) and also contains antioxidants that prevent your arteries from taking up LDL cholesterol, a process that can lead to plaque build-up.
In addition, eating like a Mediterranean is as much lifestyle as it is diet. So, instead of a quick meal in front of the TV, slow down and sit down at the table to savour what you’re eating. Not only will you enjoy your company and your food, eating slowly allows you to tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness signals.
Thus, the quality of fat ingested, the amount of natural antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables and fiber, coupled with habits such as siesta or a mid-day break to go for a walk, make the Mediterranean diet a lifestyle to adopt to increase not only longevity but also a better quality of life at more advanced ages.
Most of the Wellness hotels in Spain we work with follow the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Among them the Thalasso Hotel El Palasiet in Benicassim, Castellon. Here the nutritional team has even written a whole cook book about the Mediterranean Diet and their most favourite recipes.
Do you want to experience a week of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle at Thalasso Hotel El Palasiet? Have a look at this link for more information about the hotel and the programs.