In this day and age where diet fads come and go even faster than fashion trends, the Mediterranean diet sounds relatively new. It started to gain popularity in the ‘90s, but most people would probably be surprised to know that it dates back to the 1940s. It was Dr. Ancel Keys, with the help of his wife Margaret, who came up with the diet. It takes inspiration from the eating habits of people living in the Southern Mediterranean region, particularly Southern Italy and Greece (especially Crete).
The diet faded into obscurity for a while, but interest started to surge in 1993 when the World Health Organization, together with the Harvard School of Public Health and non-profit organization Oldways, presented a refined and modernized version of the Mediterranean diet meal plan at a conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
What foods are included in the diet?
One thing you will notice immediately is how frequently you will need to use olive oil. The diet itself is relatively high in fats, but the good kind (monounsaturated fats). Olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fat and it has been proven effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels and in relieving hypertension.
The diet also encourages people to eat plenty of plant-based foods—more vegetables than meat and eating fresh fruits rather than sweets for desserts.
Fish, especially oily types, is recommended three to four times a week. Egg consumption is also limited to three or four eggs a week.
Meat-lovers can relax. The Mediterranean diet includes red meat and poultry, albeit in smaller amounts.
Wine is also an important part of the diet. Red wine is preferred since it is rich in flavonoids (powerful antioxidants).
If you think this diet will make you starve, think again. It actually encourages snacking. Nuts are highly recommended. Dairy products like cheese and yogurt are also top picks.
Just a warning to those who like their foods very tasty though—this diet promotes dishes that are prepared in a simple way. You may use a few seasonings, but definitely no rich gravies or sauces.
Is the Mediterranean diet for everyone?
While this diet is one of the healthiest and one of the most practical out there, it’s doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for everyone. There are some characteristics about this diet that may make it unsuitable for some people.
For one, this diet is quite high in salt content. People who are salt-sensitive might not react very well to the dishes recommended in this program.
Since dairy products are also a part of this diet, it could be a turn-off for those who are lactose intolerant. At the same time however, dairy products are recommended at relatively low amounts. One might need to take calcium supplements to compensate.
Last but not the least, the fact that the Mediterranean diet recommends regular wine consumption makes it inappropriate for recovering alcoholics, pregnant women, cancer patients, and people who are taking medication that don’t mix well with alcohol.
What’s so great about this diet anyway?
Unlike most diets, this is something you can practically stick to for the rest of your life. You won’t find yourself starving or skipping meals. Basically, what this diet does is simply eliminate bad fats and bad carbohydrates. You still eat three to four times a day and the portions you consume are not scanty either.
In the long run, this diet gives you more than just weight loss. It also lowers your cholesterol levels and it reduces your risk for serious illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes (type 2), and even Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease!
Other bonuses include higher levels of energy, clearer skin, and some studies even show that people who stick to the Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop depression.
Finally, the Mediterranean diet is also something that’s healthy enough for your children to follow. It teaches them to make healthier food choices as they get older and it greatly reduces their risk of becoming overweight or obese.
Practical, healthy, promoted by health experts and something that your entire family could follow— what’s not to love about the Mediterranean diet? It’s more than just a diet, it’s a lifestyle you can embrace and enjoy for years to come.