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Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean Diet

By Valerie Mellema

The Mediterranean diet is a diet that has been inspired by the eating habits of people living in countries near the Mediterranean Sea. The diet is specifically based off the eating habits of the Greeks and Southern Italians.

There are several diets in this Mediterranean Basin that can be considered a Mediterranean diet, but they all tend to have a few components in common including:

  • High consumption of fruit
  • High consumption of vegetables
  • Bread
  • Wheat and other cereal grains
  • Olive oil
  • Olive leaf
  • Fish
  • Red wine

This diet is often praised for being low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat. It is also high in fiber.

An American doctor named Ancel Keys in 1945 first publicized the Mediterranean diet concept. He was stationed in Salerno, Italy and recognized the health of the people in this area, as well as the healthy components their day-to-day diet. However, the diet failed to spread with great popularity until the 1990s.

The diet was based off of what is considered to be somewhat of a nutrition paradox. The people in Mediterranean countries tend to consume high amounts of fat, but they have very low rates of heart disease. The United States also has a high consumption of fat in their diets, but has a high rate of heart disease.

The main explanation for this phenomenon is believed to be due to the large amount of olive oil that the Mediterranean people use in their daily cooking. Americans tend to use animal fat rather than olive oil, although this trend is changing as of late. Olive oil helps to lower cholesterol levels in the blood as well as blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Research has also shown us that olive oil may prevent peptic ulcers and can be used as a treatment in peptic ulcer disease. Additionally, red wine is consumed in large quantities in these countries. Red wine is known for its powerful antioxidant properties.

The Mediterranean diet is not anti-fat at all. The focus on the diet is not about fat consumption, but rather to make smart choices in the types of fat that you choose to eat. This diet is actually very similar to the American Heart Association's Step I diet, but has less cholesterol and more fats that contain linolenic acid, which is a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. The diet also encourages you to eat a lot of fish. Fish are also high in Omega-3 fatty acids that help to lower triglycerides and provide an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, which is believed to assist in stabilizing the blood vessel lining.

If you're looking for a diet that is heart healthy, then the Mediterranean diet is definitely worth considering. Not only do you get to eat great food, but you don't have to stress out about eating fat, as long as you're getting healthy fats and not saturated fats or trans fats.