How come some nations are naturally leaner than others? What is it about their lifestyles that make them look so good? And more importantly what is it that we can learn from them so that we too can adopt a healthier approach? Well here I am in Cyprus and getting first hand knowledge of the famous Mediterranean Diet. Time and time again, studies have shown that people who closely follow the mediterranean Diet live longer and happier lives. I’ve been here now for a good few days and I’ve noticed the Mediterranean diet is not a diet or a specific diet program but rather a collection of eating habits that are followed by people of this region. Their restaurants, shops, bars all seem to have a number of characteristics common to them all.
A high consumption of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, beans, nuts, seeds, bread and other cereals
- Olive oil used for cooking and dressings
- Moderate amounts of fish but little meat
- Low to moderate amounts of full fat cheese and yogurt
- Moderate consumption of wine, usually with meals
- Reliance on local, seasonal, fresh produce
- An active lifestyle
The benefits of this diet are huge. having looked into this before I arrived here, I discovered that those who followed the traditional Greek style Mediterranean diet, the less likely they were to die from either heart disease or cancer.
The Secret ingredients?
So what are the bare bones that make up the Mediterranean diet?
This beauty is used almost exclusively in Mediterranean cooking instead of butter, margarine and other fats. It’s a rich source of monounsaturated fat, which protects against heart disease. Olive oil is also a source of antioxidants including vitamin E. It’s used to prepare vegetable dishes, tomato sauces and fish dishes.
Fruit and Veg
A high intake of fresh fruit and vegetables has been shown to be protective against both heart disease and cancer; probably because of the antioxidants they contain. Tomatoes especially have come under the spotlight because they feature so heavily in Mediterranean food. The fruit is indeed a major source of antioxidants on its own but cooking, as in the use of it in sauces, is highly recommended because it increases the availability of lycopene, one of the main antioxidants in tomatoes.
Fish, in particular oily fish, are a great source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. Furthermore the complex long chain derivatives of these fats appear to be particularly beneficial to heart health because of their anti-inflammatory properties, which keeps blood flowing smoothly.
Wine (in moderation)
Throughout the Mediterranean wine is drunk in moderation and usually taken with meals. For men moderation is two glasses per day, for women one glass per day.
Wine, especially red wine, contains a vast array of plant compounds with health-promoting qualities called phytonutrients
In studies, the Greek diet has shown to be affective because of the combination of the different ingredients so picking just one or two of the above is not going to provide any significant protection. So its best to eat all of these foods to really reap the benefits of such a lifestyle. Of course other factors such a more relaxed attitude to eating, plenty of sun and increasing general activity all help immensely. So next time you prepare a healthy meal, why not take a leaf out of the folk who follow this lifestyle? And with vino on the menu, who says you can’t enjoy it as well? Cheers ! Love Fitlass 🙂