The Mediterranean diet is much more than a “diet”, it is a culture, a lifestyle, a way of being, that promotes healthy longevity above average.
At the end of this article – and the corresponding video – you will find out what the Mediterranean Diet consists of, what its benefits are, and also my 10 tips for incorporating its principles into your daily life.
Because if this Diet allows the inhabitants of Icária to live so well beyond 90 years, why not try it too, don’t you think?
Introduction to the Mediterranean Diet
The first research relating to the diet of European countries in the Mediterranean basin and the incidence of cardiovascular diseases dates back to the 1960s and was done by a gentleman named Ansel Keys.
This researcher worked for decades on the hypothesis that the typical diet of southern European countries allows greater longevity than an American type diet, very rich in saturated fats.
Since then many more studies have been made and the conclusions are so relevant that the Mediterranean Diet has been recognized as an intangible heritage of humanity by Unesco, and by the WHO as a standard for healthy and sustainable eating.
If you still think that healthy eating is a diet to lose weight, or that it is boring, or that it involves eating only lettuce, or that it prevents you from having a normal life… then stay until the end. You’ll realize it’s not like that, quite the contrary!
Watch the video here (in Portuguese):
But then what exactly is the Mediterranean Diet?
An “official” UNESCO definition:
“A set of knowledge, rituals, symbols, and traditions about culture, harvesting, fishing, breeding, processing, cooking, and in particular the sharing and consumption of food.”
1. Food in the Mediterranean Diet
The first great pillar of the Mediterranean Diet is – of course – food.
What characterizes this food pattern is the great predominance of products of vegetable origin, of fish, which are fished locally and of local dairy products as well. Meat is of less importance and red meat is consumed occasionally.
The base of this food pyramid consists of fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and some artisanal by-products such as bread and fresh pasta.
Pulses and nuts are also eaten daily, as is virgin olive oil, which is one of the “ex libris” of this way of life.
The fish is mostly fatty, local fish, quite rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Dairy products play an important supporting role, but their consumption is moderate in quantity. Yogurts are natural and cheeses are homemade.
Meat and eggs are less important and consumed in much lower quantities than our so-called normal diet.
The spices are varied, based on aromatic herbs and spices, far beyond salt and pepper.
Sweet desserts are infrequent, with fruit being the dessert of choice.
Unprocessed and home-made food
This diet is also defined by what is not included, which are the processed and refined products, the excess of flours and sugar, soft drinks, or even red and processed meat. There are no ‘light’ products here, no miracle diets… This diet is not defined by deprivation, quite the contrary.
The food is mostly prepared at home and in a somewhat celebratory mood…
Ah, and wine is an integral part of this whole and is usually drunk at mealtimes.
2. Physical Activity in the Mediterranean Diet
The second pillar of this way of life is physical activity. These people, along with a diet like the one I described, move every day!
But they do it in a natural way, their life is active, they often work the land for a living. And are also known for favoring non-motorized means of transportation… And for carrying things around, and swimming in the sea regularly. Anyway, all things that are part of life, we are not talking about a big gym full of Treadmills and stationary bikes.
Oh, and people keep being active until very advanced ages! Men and women work at home and away until very late in life – by the way, you only have to watch Jamie Oliver’s shows to see that his guests are already ahead of us by a few decades. And that is precisely the welcome effect of this lifestyle!
3. Social life in the Mediterranean Diet
Which brings me to the third pillar of the Mediterranean Diet: social life!
One evidence in these communities of greater longevity is the social integration of the older generations into the active life of the community and the family.
Dan Buettner, we can call him the “father” of the current research on the Blue Zones, speaks of the “purpose”, these people have a purpose of life until late, basically until they die. They maintain a healthy social life, with activity, with friends, with children and grandchildren. And that’s that inner fire that gives us all the will to get up in the morning, that gives us cause to talk and places to go.
The combined effect of these three pillars allows the residents of these areas to maintain odd levels of health in the western world, both physically and mentally.
And that is what we all want, isn’t it?
To live late maintaining the quality of life we have at 30, 40…
The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet in brief
-> A diverse diet rich in fiber, healthy fats, and micronutrients with protective and antioxidant properties.
-> Greater protection against cardiovascular diseases but also others today related to lifestyles such as some types of cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity and even neurodegenerative diseases.
-> But don’t think that this is only good for older people: there is evidence that adopting this eating pattern early results in a lower incidence of allergies in children, both respiratory and skin.
-> By valuing seasonal and especially local products, this diet also promotes environmental sustainability.
So what do you think so far? Is it worth knowing more about the Mediterranean Diet or not?
Comment below, tell me if you like it 🙂
But I’m listening to you thinking…
“Okay, Silvia, but in real life, are we all going to a Greek island or to the south of Italy to be healthier?”
As pleasant as it would be, and as much as the digital nomadic lifestyle pleases me, I recognize that it won’t be possible…
10 tips for living with the Mediterranean Diet
So, stay with me, I’ll share my tips on how to incorporate this lifestyle into your everyday life, without major fuss.
Eat lots of vegetables and fruit!
Eat every day, raw, boiled, roasted, or stewed. Try different without fear!
Season with herbs and lemon
It uses aromatic herbs, fresh and dry. Challenge yourself and use a different herb every day!
Get used to using lemon too, both the juice and the zest.
Choose healthier fats
Forget margarine. Use olive oil in the kitchen and eat nuts and seeds, in moderate but regular amounts.
If you haven’t seen my video on healthy fats, I suggest you watch it, you’ll understand better the importance of fats in the diet. I’ll leave you the link here.
More fish, less meat!
Make more fish meals, 3 times a week at least. If you’re short on time, enjoy the excellent canned fish we produce today.
For example, take a packed lunch with a nice green salad and sardine fillets.
For inspiration, check out the recipes I showed at CM TV some time ago, you’ll find the link HERE.
Leave the meat for the weekend.
Get used to soaking the grains, beans, or lentils you’re planning to cook the next day.
Better yet, leave it from Saturday to Sunday and cook on Sunday the batch for the week. You can freeze any cooked legumes already divided into portions and take it out of the freezer when you need it.
If you think it’s hard work, you’re wrong: either do it with Bimby or leave it to cook calmly in the pan while you watch two episodes of Lucifer, or whatever you like on Netflix!
You’ll find recipes with legumes here on Glow Chef. You already know where you can find the link.
Choose whole grains
Learn to cook whole grains and use them in salads, stews, and soups.
Choose a bread that is really wholemeal and give alternative types of pasta a try, again choosing quality ingredients and whole grains.
Cheese and yogurt … … the good ones!
If you are not intolerant to dairy products, eat yogurt and cheese moderately, and always choose the simplest ones. Forget the ‘light’/fat-free ones, the sugared. Go for the real ones, the artisanal ones. They’ll give you a lot more pleasure, and you’ll find that a little bit goes a long way in satisfying you.
Home cooking is healthier.
Make friends with your kitchen. Learn to use it daily without stress. Home-made food is always better than take-out.
Use cooking methods that protect nutrients by cooking at moderate temperatures. Make soups. Don’t over fry your onions and oils.
Don’t worry about doing complicated dishes, your body doesn’t need to. It’s just your ego…
Physical activity every day
Move it! Go upstairs, carry the shopping bags, drag the furniture at home…
Walk in the wild at the weekend, or near the water if you live on the coast.
Make weekend plans that involve movement. On the beach don’t sit around all day, have a swim, walk, play…
And best of all, walk every day. Yeah, even on the treadmill.
Take care of your social life 🙂
Talk regularly with your family members.
Join a group that has common interests with you and book at least one night a week for these activies.
Grow new friendships outside of work. Volunteer.
Arrange dinners or lunches at home, invite your friends to participate in the preparation of the dishes. Everyone will benefit!
Above all, never lose sight of your purpose in life.
Think about this… As you can see the word “diet” is present here but it is not associated with calories, deprivations, fasting, or any other kind of punishment. On the contrary.
The Mediterranean Diet corresponds to a very rich lifestyle in natural and human quality.
Values that we need. That warm our hearts. That makes us happy. And in the process, that make us healthier!
YES? Would you like to try it?
Tell me in the comment section below, are you going to incorporate any of these tips into your life?.
Now you know how to incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into your life. Go to the tips I gave you one by one, without stress, and feel your body thanking you. And prepare for a long life of health and joy!
Don’t forget, support my YouTube channel by doing like in the video and subscribing to the channel. There are many more videos coming and with your support they’ll get better and better!
The Order of Nutritionists led Portugal’s candidature for this Unesco award and you can see here some of the work that has been done in Portugal to promote this healthy lifestyle: