What is Mediterranean Diet?
When you first heard about the Mediterranean Diet, you may think that it is just another fad diet for losing weight. However, the truth is not. The Mediterranean Diet is more appropriate to be considered as a living lifestyle. It is actually the lifestyle of people living around the Mediterranean Sea in the early 1960s, which includes Greece, southern Italy, southern France, Spain, as well as some countries in the Middle East. It is one of the best ways to live if you want a high quality of life.
Created by Dr Walter Willett
The most common version of Mediterranean diet was created by Dr Walter Willett of Harvard University’s School of Public Health. This diet emphasizes on high consumption of plant foods, such as legumes, unrefined cereals, fresh vegetables and fruits. Fresh fruits are usually served as daily dessert. The main source of fat used in this diet is virgin olive oil, which is high in monounsaturated fat. Dairy products (especially yogurt and cheese), which are a good source of calcium, are allowed in moderate. Fish (especially fatty fish) is eaten regularly in the Mediterranean diet, about four times weekly. Poultry is consumed in low to moderate amounts, while red meat and meat products are consumed in low amounts as they contain saturated fat. For egg, the maximum amount allowed is seven per week. Wine is taken in low to moderate amounts daily, usually a small glass at meal times. The total fat in this diet contributes about 25% to 35% of the total calories.
Active Lifestyle, Nutritious Diet, Low Stress, Not Money Oriented
The main characteristics of this Mediterranean lifestyle are high daily physical activities, having diet with Mediterranean nutrition, life with low stress as well as not money oriented. This lifestyle can be considered as the healthiest in the world as it delays aging and promotes long life. It is also great in preventing many diseases, e.g. stroke and heart attack. It may also help in preventing metabolic syndrome, lung disease, allergies etc. This special Mediterranean culture was declared as Immaterial Human Heritage by UNESCO in year 2010. It is a great culture that worth to be learned immediately.
Not A Diet of Typical Mediterranean Cuisines
Although it is named as “Mediterranean Diet”, this diet is not a diet of typical Mediterranean cuisines. As stated earlier, the main fat for cooking in Mediterranean Diet is olive oil. However, the cuisines for Northern Italy for example, are usually cooked with butter or lard while for North Africa, clarified butter and sheep’s tail fat are always used for cooking.
When talking about following a Mediterranean Diet, you need to choose the right foods as well as avoiding unhealthy foods. Always go for fresh and natural food and avoid artificially hydrogenated products that contain trans-fats.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: An Eating Pattern for Good Health
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was developed by Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of the World Health Organization. It was based on traditional dietary of people living around the Mediterranean Sea during 1960s, especially Crete, Greece and southern Italy.
During that time, the chances of populations there having chronic disease (e.g. obesity, diabetes, heart disease) were among the lowest in the world and the life expectancy was among the highest, even with limited medical services. This pyramid continues to become popular and being recognized as “gold standard” eating pattern which lead to good health.
More Plant Foods, Less Meat, and Active Lifestyle
The Mediterranean diet focuses on consuming fresh plant foods and seafood while limiting the consumption of meats and meat products. It also avoids processed foods which are the result of food modernization. Besides foods, the Mediterranean diet also emphasizes drinking plenty of water as well as maintaining an active lifestyle, and sharing food among family and friends.
Bottom of Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: Eat Frequently
At the very bottom of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid are plant foods, which include fruits, vegetables, whole grain, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, olive oil as well as herbs and spices. These foods are eaten in high amounts, preferably in every meal. Common fruits eaten are olives, dates, figs, grapefruit (related: grapefruit diet plan), pomegranates, peaches, etc. Examples of vegetables consumed are artichokes, arugula, collard, okra, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, etc. Olive oil is the main source of fat, both for cooking and dressing. For seasoning, herbs and spices are mostly used.
Middle of Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: Moderate Amount
Fish and seafood lie above the plant foods in the pyramid. These foods are the main source of protein and are consumed very often, at least twice per week. Tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are usually eaten. Other seafood includes shrimp, squid, clams, cockles, mussels, etc.
On top of the seafood are poultry, eggs, and dairy products (especially cheese and yogurt). A moderate amount of cheese and yogurt are consumed daily. Poultry is consumed in moderate amounts, but less frequently than seafood.
Top of Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: Less Often
On the very top of the pyramid are meats and sweets, which are consumed less often. Red meats are only eaten a few times within a month, with the total amount, not more than 16 ounces or 450g. Sweets include foods with a lot of sugar and saturated fat, and are taken less than several times weekly. Instead of sweets, fresh fruits are always taken as dessert, and honey are usually added to sweeten them.
Besides the above-mentioned foods, the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid also recommends wine to be included in the diet moderately for those who consume alcoholic drinks.
Mediterranean Diet Plan (a.k.a. Kalamata Olive Diet)
The Mediterranean diet plan does not limit the amount of fat consumed, the more important is what type of fat is taken in. All saturated fats that are found in animal foods, as well as trans fats which are always present in hydrogenated oils, are usually avoided. All these unhealthy fats usually contribute to various heart diseases. Olives and olive oils are important foods as well as the main source of fat in this diet. This healthy olive oil is among the world’s best oils. It is rich in monounsaturated fats (mainly oleic acid) and polyphenols. These good monounsaturated fats help in preventing heart disease.
There are many different types of olive with colors ranging from green to black. One of them is the Kalamata olive. Kalamata olives are large olives with an aubergine or dark purple color. They have a smooth and meaty textures. They are named after the Kalamata region of Greece, which is famous for the production of olive and olive oil. Kalamata olive is also known as the Greek olive.
Kalamata olives are seldom used for making Kalamata olive oil, which has a faintly grassy flavor. They are usually brined and preserved in olive oil or wine vinaigrette. The dark brown or nearly black color brined Kalamata olives are usually served as table olives or added to salad, cheese, or other recipes.
Due to the high consumption of Kalamata olives in this diet, the Mediterranean diet plan is also known as Kalamata olive diet.