Olive Oil and the Mediterranean Diet

Of course everyone has heard of the Mediterranean diet, but do you really know what it is?  Do you know what it consists of, i.e. what foods are the protagonists, and more importantly, do you know what eating habits need to be changed?

To put it simply, the Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan based on typical foods that are cooked in traditional Mediterranean recipes.  These recipes are comprised of the different cooking styles of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.

However, despite the different styles of cooking and the slight variations of recipes around the Mediterranean Sea, there is a common basis that defines the diet.   Specifically, it emphasizes:

  1. eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  2. Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil – which is a key component to the diet
  3. Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food
  4. Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  5. Drinking red wine in moderation, about a glass a day (optional)

Certainly, the diet also requires one to lead a physical lifestyle by being active with exercise, and a crucial element which affects mood and your psychological state of being is to regularly enjoy meals with friends and family.

The way to visualise the Mediterranean diet is through a food pyramid.

There have been countless studies concerning the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits.  In one study, the participants in the Mediterranean diet groups agreed to replace red meat with white meat like chicken and eat three or more servings of fish each week, along with three or more servings of fruit and two or more servings of vegetables a day. The extra-virgin-olive-oil group also consumed more than four tablespoons of the oil a day, replacing regular olive oil with the extra-virgin variety, which contains more potentially heart-healthy compounds which can lower levels of inflammatory factors that contribute to heart disease.   It was shown that those who ate a Mediterranean diet high in extra-virgin olive oil had a significantly lower rate of heart disease deaths than the ones that did not follow this type of diet.

The one thing to remember though while adapting to the Mediterranean diet: it is more than just a diet;t it is a lifestyle.  You will have to adapt to this lifestyle, making changes to the way you do things and the way you eat.  As I said previously, eating with friends and family is an important part of the diet because family and friends in the Mediterranean region are a vital component to one’s well-being.

To make the decision to follow this regime is one that is more about connecting yourself to your environment and surroundings.  This is the way that Mediterraneans have lived for centuries, and only when you can find a balance between you, your environment, and what/how you eat, will you see the  health benefits becoming more  visible.  Always remember this saying from the Greeks, “You should always eat to live, not live to eat.”