The Mediterranean Diet: A Compilation of History, Research & Scope


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1. About The Mediterranean Diet

The American Heart Association, Harvard University and many other notable health associated research institutes have gone to great pains to establish the foundation or fundamental reasons why this diet is so well recognized for healing and health properties. As the supremo natural food diet, it has had many centuries to not only establish, but to prove it’s worth. Its weight loss results are also being noticed…

Fundamentally, the Mediterranean diet evolved from the respective diets of countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin. Among the countries surrounding the basin are the south of France, southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus. Originally introduced by American doctor Ancel Keys, the diet failed to gain popular recognition until the 1990's. Based on scientific data, people around the Mediterranean basin had lower rates of cardiovascular disease compared to Americans who, for all intents and purposes, consumed the same relative amount of fat. One possible explanation and the one that sees most popular, is the presence of olive oil and red wine. Olive oil lowers cholesterol levels in the blood while red wine contains flavonoids. Flavonoids are anti-oxidants that also help the body when dealing with allergenic material, viruses and cancer causing agents.

Comparing the food pyramid of the United States against the Mediterranean diet food pyramid, people of the Mediterranean consumed fruits, vegetables and grain just as Americans do. The main difference lies in the fact that Americans consume much more red meat and olive oil is prominent in the Mediterranean diet region. Additionally, Americans are much more prone to eating highly processed foods on a regular basis.

Consumption of cold water fish is also prominent in the Mediterranean region. This has resulted in reduced risks of heart disease, cancer and improved immune system functions. It is indeed an enviable nutrition food pyramid by any diets’ standards. Ever growing brigades of heart healthy and weight conscious people like you are sticking a copy of the Mediterranean diet pyramid or food pyramid on their refrigerators. You would have to conclude that this is so they can glean over it at meal time while they prepare something to eat. The constant statistics indicating the increasing popularity of almost any Mediterranean cookbook is staggering. As a result, Mediterranean diet meal plans are in constant demand.

2. Fat

An interesting aspect of the Mediterranean cuisine is that fat is regarded as a healthy dietary element. Understand that it is the fat that gives food most of its flavour. However, we are not talking about fat that everyone usually talks about. Two substances, omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, are considered to be healthy foods or elements and are not restricted in the diet. Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil and nuts are good sources of monounsaturated fat while fish, vegetables and nuts contain the healthy omega-3 acids. Saturated fats and trans fat, on the other hand are considered to be unhealthy as they are said to contribute to heart disease. Red meat, butter, cheese and milk are also sources of saturated fat while processed foods contain hydrogenated oils from which trans fat comes from.

3. Olive Oil

I should mention that the history of olive oil, olive oil uses and olive oil facts are important to this diet because of the health benefits of olive oil and its related properties. There is even talk that some shelf products in supermarkets may display a logo or mark to identify they belong to the traditional Mediterranean diet food group. Extra Virgin olive oil is regarded as the best due to it being extracted at the first crushing.

4. Disease and the Mediterranean diet

Often referred to as the heart smart diet, people have been searching for subject matter based on the Mediterranean diet and diabetes, Arthrosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Peptic Ulcers, Lower Blood Pressure and there are more breakthroughs being investigated as I write. It is already a favourite for heart disease, resistance to some Cancers and longevity. Sounds too good to be true I initially thought. Fortunately, the formally researched and verified proof coming from sources such as prominent universities and health research institutes across the globe is substantial. There is now additional research being undertaken with allergies in children related to the Mediterranean diet as a result of a recent discovery from studies of children and their low affliction to allergies in the Mediterranean region. Another area of research is focussed on reducing the risks of Dementia.

The incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries is lower than in the United States. Death rates are lower, too. However, there are some who feel this may not be entirely due to the diet. Lifestyle factors (ie. more physical activity and extended social family support structures) may also play a part. At this stage this is just a theory. However, the research tells all - the Mediterranean diet has existed for umpteen years.

4. Diet

For those newly acquainted with the Mediterranean diet, you should know at the outset that this is different to diets such as the Atkins diet or the South Creek diet or any other commercial diet, in that, it is not a diet that has been fabricated or designed by a person in the last 30 years. It is however, an age old diet or way of eating and cooking which has been and is enjoyed by many countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Hence it’s name. This traditional diet has been this way for centuries. This of course allows ample room for extensive research and studies to be undertaken.

5. Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid

A brief explanation of the Mediterranean diet pyramid is based on dietary information from regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The traditional recipes are often quoted from Greek Food, Italian food, Sicilian food and we have found there is often a strong focus in Cretan food from the Isle of Crete. There are many other sources of traditional Mediterranean foods but there have been questions raised as to the diets swing to processed foods n some areas of one or two of the sixteen countries involved. The diet has enjoyed the lowest recorded rates of chronic diseases and the highest recorded adult life expectancy which shows a pattern such as this one below;

- A significant amount of food from plant sources
- A strong emphasis on minimal amounts of processed foods
- Most food items are seasonal and locally grown
- The principal fat is extra virgin olive oil which replaces other almost all other fats and oils
- A daily consumption of low to moderate amounts of yogurt and cheese
- Consumption of moderate amounts of poultry and fish weekly (recent research indicates that fish is favoured over poultry); around four eggs per week is average
- A typical daily intake or dessert of Fresh fruit is the norm; sweets with a significant amount of sugar (most often honey)
- Red meat is eaten only a few times a month and should be lean
- A low consumption of wine (usually red) is also part of the diet (normally 1 glass with meals for women and 2-3 maximum for men)

There is more detail on the Mediterranean diet healthy food pyramid and a useful diagram accessible from the link below.

6. Weight Loss

The weight loss properties that surround the Mediterranean food diet are more about application than indulging in any one kind of food or indeed, food group denial. The weight loss success that is normally attributed to this diet has come about with the gradual dismissal of processed foods and the adoption of fresh fruit, vegetables and the many grains and cereal foods available. Basically, cooking regularly from a Mediterranean diet menu. The weight loss program is almost automatic. Let’s not forget the qualities that come with extra virgin olive oil for cooking instead of animal fat too. Almost all nutritionists and doctors will tell you that exercise is also extremely important in the goal of losing weight. Even walking for 40 minutes 5 days a week is quite powerful and will give excellent results as a fat burner when used along with a Mediterranean diet. You don’t have to pump weights or run like the wind for twenty blocks to burn fat from your body. In fact, if you’re not reasonably fit to start with, jumping in like that can be injurious. Much more, is explained later at the link below.

7. Mediterranean Diet Recipes

It’s very true that Mediterranean recipes are found in some cookbooks already offline and online. They are usually full of tasty healthy recipes and are often thought of as vegetarian food recipes. For the record, these gourmet cooking recipes are not just vegetarian but are quite diversified. They are generally easy healthy recipes and range from garlic recipes through to formal dinner recipes.

8. Conclusion

Is there a healthier way to lose weight than to stick with what’s researched, and is tried and true? I am not talking about the last couple of years here. I am talking about centuries. Why would you be silly enough to pursue a quick fix path when it’s your very person on the line? Your health must come first, the speed of weight loss second. If you care about your longevity, resistance to disease, a healthy life and safe weight loss, then surely learning the simple and diverse process of cooking Mediterranean style is worth your consideration. Be smart! Learn more, or better still promise yourself that you’ll try it and cook one meal that’s appealing you. Your whole life can change for the better because you did. Then laziness is the only excuse not to and I’m certain you won’t be sorry.

Here’s to your healthy and tasty future, Ray Darken.

Copyright 2007 Ray Darken - Ray has included immediate access to a more detailed selection of articles and a downloadable guide on the Mediterranean diet here . If this link is inactive, try


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