Greeks and Italians followed this healthy eating lifestyle in the 50s and 60s. For them it was a way of life, they had a physical lifestyle and ate food typical of their region. Since then the diet has been proven to have many health benefits.
When people had more manual jobs they worked outside all day tending to animals or vegetables. Families would all sit around the table together and enjoy a meal. The main staples of the diet were lots of fruit and veg. They would eat up to 9 portions a day, providing the body with lots of antioxidants. The salt in the body lost by manual work was replaced by eating cured meats. Red meat was consumed only a few times a month. Poultry and fish was eaten twice a week.
Everything was cooked with a good splash of olive oil, which is high in omega-6 and low in omega-3 fatty acids. The use of olive oil in this diet provides a high ratio of mono-unsaturated fats to saturated fatty acids. Red wine was enjoyed in moderation and desserts were saved for special occasions or nights out. Dairy and eggs were consumed less frequently than Western diets.
Recent research has shown that people who strictly follow this diet are more likely to live longer and have a reduced risk of developing major chronic diseases. The diet has been shown to help protect against cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and risk of heart disease. A study in 2013 found that people following the Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
To follow the Mediterranean Diet:
Eat mostly plant-based foods eg. Fruit, vegetables, and legumes
Choose wholegrain products whenever possible
Ditch butter for healthier fats like rapeseed oil or olive oil
Cut out salt and use herbs and spices to give your food flavour
Only eat red meat a few times a month
Eat fish or chicken twice a week
Optional — Drink red wine in moderation
Eat diary and milk products infrequently
To lose weight or maintain your weight, do some moderate exercise several times a week with this diet.
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