The Mediterranean Diet is a unique type of diet that received UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status in 2013. In the middle of the twentieth century, researchers drew attention to the fact that the inhabitants of the Mediterranean are less likely to suffer from excess weight, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and these are the main risks that reduce life expectancy.
The explanation for this phenomenon was found in a special set of products and a diet that the inhabitants of the Mediterranean region have historically adhered to. The term “Mediterranean diet” itself was coined by American nutritionists Ansel and Case, who themselves adhered to this principle of nutrition and lived to 97 and 100 years, respectively.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Both scientific and medical research and the personal experience of many people following the Mediterranean diet testify to its beneficial effect on weight loss, longevity and quality of life. Among the main advantages are:
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- Reducing the risk of developing many dangerous diseases: diabetes mellitus, hypertension and other problems associated with the cardiovascular system, Alzheimer’s disease and even some types of cancer;
- Maintaining a stable and healthy body weight;
- The presence of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants necessary for a person;
- Increasing life expectancy and activity even in old age;
- Slow down aging;
- Lowering the level of cholesterol in the blood;
- Beneficial effect on the skin.
There is only one minus of the Mediterranean diet – in order to achieve the full effect, you must adhere to its basic principles all your life. This is not a short-term solution for a couple of weeks, but a full-fledged lifestyle. However, long-term adherence to this diet is not so difficult, because it is diverse, full of delicious dishes and does not imply any strict restrictions.
The main condition of the Mediterranean diet is the rejection of semi-finished products and fast food. At the same time, fresh and natural products must be present in the diet: greens and vegetables, fish and seafood, olive oil, whole grain bread and cereals.
Unlike many mono-diets, which are difficult to stick to for a long time, the Mediterranean one suggests a healthy ratio of BJU, conditionally dividing meals only according to the time of day: it is better to make breakfast carbohydrate, and cook something protein with fresh or stewed vegetables for dinner. The daily menu should include:
- 10% proteins – eggs, cheeses, meat and seafood;
- 30% fat – fish and olive oil (preferably extra virgin cold pressed);
- 60% carbohydrates – fruits, vegetables, bread and pasta from durum wheat, cereals.
It is also important to make meals fractional, about 5-6 meals per day. This will help improve metabolism, give the body additional energy and get rid of excess body fat.
What foods can you eat on the Mediterranean diet?
Vegetables and olive oil
The basis of the daily diet should be fresh vegetables, nutritionists especially recommend eggplant, zucchini, sweet peppers and tomatoes. At the same time, it is better to refuse potatoes because of their high glycemic index. An indispensable attribute of this diet are olives and olive oil, they are present in almost every dish, whether it be a salad, pasta or cold appetizer. It is olives that contain the necessary antioxidants that preserve youth and beauty, and also protect our body from diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
Bread and cereals
Complex carbohydrates provide about 60% of the total energy value. It is important to monitor the quality of products: bread should be from whole grains, pasta from durum wheat, since such carbohydrates are most favorable for the body. Cereals are recommended to be pre-soaked for a day.
Fish and meat
Red meat is rare in the Mediterranean diet and can be lamb, ham, or dietary poultry. But fish and seafood are an indispensable element that provides essential fats and amino acids for life. Both white and red fish are allowed, but special preference is given to trout, salmon, mackerel, herring, as they have the highest content of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, which are so necessary for our health.
It is another important source of protein, amino acids, calcium and vitamin D. The menu includes cheeses and yogurts, which are added to salads, meat and bread or used as a main course, for example, with herbs. It can be parmesan, feta or goat cheese. Yoghurts are necessarily used natural, without the content of dyes and preservatives.
Herbs and spices
An indispensable element in almost every dish, giving the Mediterranean type of food its unique flavor notes. The choice of spices is varied: cumin, basil, rosemary, oregano, oregano.
It is impossible not to mention the most noticeable feature of the Mediterranean diet – red wine is not only not prohibited, but also welcomed. True, with emphatically restrained use. Drinking a lot of alcohol, of course, is not worth it, but 10-50 ml per day can cheer you up and positively affect the work of the heart and blood vessels.
For those who want to try the food style of the inhabitants of the coastal strip, nutritionists have compiled a special food pyramid, which greatly facilitates the self-compilation of the menu for every day. There is a lot of information on how to replace products typical for the Mediterranean region with more common analogues in Russia, based on their composition and the presence of useful elements. So, for example, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are suitable instead of olives. Red fish can be replaced with cheaper mackerel and herring or flax seeds.
A sample Mediterranean style menu would be:
The morning meal should be saturated with carbohydrates. Suitable cereals, sweetened with fruits, berries or honey. You can also cook pasta with sauce or steamed rice with vegetables.
If you get hungry before lunch, fruit or walnuts are a good snack.
For lunch, vegetable, fish or meat soup and a salad dressed with olive oil or sour cream are perfect.
For the evening, be sure to cook something protein: baked or boiled fish, low-fat poultry, green beans. Fermented milk products are also suitable: cottage cheese, yogurt and kefir.
With all the variety of products, the calorie content of the daily diet should be controlled. On average, it is desirable to stick to about 1100 calories, however this figure can fluctuate, depending on gender, age, physique and physical activity.
If you find it difficult to keep a daily calorie count and design meals for it, try the BeFit programs. You can choose a balanced healthy diet that suits you , created by professional chefs and nutritionists.