The media regularly extol the virtues of a Mediterranean diet, which is great, but we need to separate the truth from the fiction.
The fact is that much of what is eaten around the Med is good healthy food but it is also about the quantities eaten as much as the foods themselves. Traditionally meals tend to be eaten slowly and consist of a number of courses, many containing fruits and vegetables. Plates are not piled high but foods are taken in small portions, with time taken to eat that allows good digestion.
Being a warmer area of the world, diet is also governed to an extent by the heat of the day – people tend to eat less food and lighter meals when it’s hot.
So what is a genuine Mediterranean diet?
The staples tend to be fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, fish and olive oil – all of which are generally available in abundance in these climates.
Such diets tend to be rich in fibre, which is important in helping the body to function efficiently and slows down our digestion systems enabling them to function better. This, in turn, helps with type 2 diabetes as good digestion helps to prevent high blood sugar levels.
Research also suggests that such a diet may improve cholesterol and overall blood vessel health, which have an impact on heart disease and are also thought to have a bearing on Alzheimers and dementia.
A study by the Spanish Government in 2013 reported that people following a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of having a stroke or heart disease.
Furthermore the high levels of antioxidants found in vegetables and, particularly, tomatoes can help to reduce the risk of diseases like Parkinson’s and cancer.
A number of studies both in Europe and the USA have also suggested that following a true Mediterranean diet can add years to your life and even slow down the aging process – who’s going to argue with that?