What is the "Mediterranean" diet
There's no one, typical "Mediterranean" diet. At least 16 countries border the Mediterranean Sea. Diets vary between these countries and also between regions within a country. Many differences in culture, ethnic background, religion, economy and agricultural production result in different diets. But the common Mediterranean dietary pattern has these characteristics:
- high in fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds
- includes olive oil as an important, monounsaturated fat source
- dairy products, fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts, little red meat
- eggs consumed zero to four times weekly
- wine consumed in low to moderate amounts
in an international scale there is much discussion about, and deep interest in, finding the ideal diet, which will improve the health of human beings warding off illnesses. Ever since antiquity, the traditional diet of Cretans seems to be just such a one, including all the right ingredients.
The Greek island of Crete has always been identified with healing and regeneration.
And once again, an ancient culture may offer lessons to the people of today!
Following scientific research and statistical analyses, the Cretan nutrition and diet has been proven to promote health and longevity. It consists almost exclusively of products that the people of Crete produce naturally. products that only the island of Crete and its ideal climatic conditions can offer. it is not only the unique in taste and quality Cretan products but also their combination, which gives an enormous nutritional value and can be found in every Cretan dish.
A comparative study among several developed countries, which began in 1960 on behalf of seven countries, has a group of about 700 Cretan men from the countryside under medical observation, regularly checking the state of their health: so far this group has had the lowest percentage of deaths caused by heart attacks and different kinds of cancer. This study has also shown the Cretan population to be the longest living one: when, in 1991, thirty one years after the beginning of the study, the Social Health Sector of the University of Crete undertook the medical checkup of the group, about 50% were found to be still alive as opposed to the rest of the six participating countries where there wasn't a single survivor (even in the rest of Greece)!
is a monosaturated fatty acid, olive oil does not have the same cholesterol-raising effect of saturated fats. Olive oil is also a good source of antioxidants. Eating fish a few times per week benefits the Mediterranean people by increasing the amount of "Omega-3 fatty acids" - something that the rest of the developed societies don't get enough of. Eating red meat sparingly seems to also increase health.
There is a general consensus among health professionals that the Mediterranean Diet is healthier than the North European and American diet because more grains, such as spaghetti, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and olive oil are consumed.
Does a Mediterranean-style diet follow American Heart Association dietary guidelines
In general, the diets of Mediterranean peoples contain a relatively high percentage of calories from fat.
More than half of these fat calories come from monounsaturated fats (mainly from olive oil). Monounsaturated fat doesn't raise blood cholesterol levels the way saturated fat does.
In the average Mediterranean diet, less saturated fat is eaten than in the average UK diet. In fact, saturated fat consumption is well within our dietary guidelines.
The incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries is lower than in the United States. Death rates are lower, too. But this may not be entirely due to the diet. Lifestyle factors (such as more physical activity, extended social support systems and drinking wine with meals) may also play a part.
Before advising people to follow an optimal Mediterranean diet, we need to find out whether the diet itself or other lifestyle factors account for the lower deaths from heart disease. See the Lyon Diet Heart Study entry in this Guide for more information.
The high fat content of the Mediterranean diet may increase the risk of obesity.