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What does the Mediterranean diet consist of? Food list, healthy recipes and benefits

Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein... everything you need to know about the diet that’s hitting the headlines again.

Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein... everything you need to know about the diet that’s hitting the headlines again.

A new study has revived discussion about the health benefits linked to a Mediterranean diet. The research suggests that the foods associated to the traditional cuisine of the Mediterranean region could also lower the risk of dementia by almost a quarter as well as the already accepted boosts. And the ‘protective effect’ that it deals with in the report is something that may allow for treatments to be developed for the disease’s prevention. So, what do we mean by the Mediterranean diet and what does it contrast against?

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The commonly referred to ‘Mediterranean diet’ is a way of eating that is based on cultural traditions stemming from countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey. The diet is characterised by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil, as well as moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and dairy, and a low consumption of red meat and sweets. How does that compare to yours?

Mediterranean diet broken down:

  • Fruits and vegetables: there’s a massive emphasis on a high intake of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also low in calories and can help with weight loss.
  • Whole grains: the consumption of whole grains is very much encouraged, and this includes whole wheat bread, brown rice, and quinoa. High in fiber, they can help with digestion and weight management.
  • Healthy fats: think olive oil, nuts, and seeds, which are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and therefore make your heart very happy.
  • Lean protein: the diet points to moderate amounts of lean protein, such as fish, poultry, and legumes. As well as being low in saturated fat, these products are a good source of vitamins and minerals, as well as protein.
  • Low in red meat and sweets: the recommendation, when guided by this diet, is to limit your consumption of red meat and sweets, which are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. Health first!

As well as the aforementioned countries associated with the diet, it’s worth noting that others that border the Mediterranean Sea, such as France, Morocco, and Tunisia, also have their own eating variations.

Mediterranean diet recipes

When people think about the Mediterranean diet, often words like fresh, healthy, delicious, colourful come to mind as dreams of crisp white dishes being served on a cliffside terrace raise a smile. Here are a few examples of Mediterranean-inspired recipes that could be offered to you on your travels, or that you could rustle up at home:

  • Greek Salad: a refreshing salad made with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese, olives, and a simple olive oil and lemon dressing.
  • Grilled Fish with Lemon and Herbs: This simple and flavorful recipe calls for grilling a white fish fillet with lemon and herbs.
  • Chickpea and Vegetable Stew: This hearty stew is made with chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, and spinach, and is seasoned with cumin, coriander, and cinnamon.
  • Italian Minestrone Soup: This classic Italian soup is made with vegetables, beans, and pasta, and is seasoned with herbs such as basil and oregano.

If that little taster got you in the mood, you’ll love this expansive and creative list of 50 Mediterranean diet recipes.

Western diet

Often seen as the nemesis of the Mediterranean diet, the generic term ‘western diet’ is handy if you’d rather not stay on the planet too long. This diet refers to a dietary pattern that is commonly consumed in countries such as the United States, Canada, and parts of Western Europe... although clearly there are always exceptions.

This diet is typically high in saturated and trans fats, red and processed meat, refined grains, sugar, and salt, and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It is also often associated with a high intake of processed and fast foods. The Western-style diet has been linked to various health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

Take your pick.


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