Several studies have documented that people in the Mediterranean countries have a longer and healthier life than do those in other industrialised countries, despite the high prevalence of smoking and gaps in health services available to them. This has been attributed to several cultural and behavioural differences between the populations, as well as special dietary characteristics.
This diet has been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease due to a reduction in many of the cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure, weight, platelet stickiness, inflammation (CRP), homocysteine and white blood cell counts. It has also been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, Alzheimers Disease, diabetes, obesity and depression. While fertility, asthma control and health related quality of life are improved with higher adherence to the diet.
The Mediterranean diet typically has a high ratio of omega 3:omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, is low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fats. The total fat levels may be high (40% of total energy from fat), but the ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat is about 2:1. It has an abundance of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. It also includes one coffee per day and one glass of wine most days.
The Mediterranean diet plan:
Unrefined grains (whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice), 4-6 serves of fruit, 4-6 serves of vegetables, 1-2 serves low fat dairy products, 1-2 glasses wine, olive oil as the main source of fat.
4-6 serves fish or poultry, 4-6 serves legumes, 4-6 serves nuts, 4-6 serves potatoes and olives
4-5 serves red meat, 4-5 serves eggs
EITHER ½ cup oats, 3 tbsp mixed nuts and seeds, 3 tbsp low fat yoghurt, 1 piece fruit
OR tomatoes, cucumber, low fat feta, olives, olive oil, herbs, whole meal bread, 1 piece fruit
OR fruit salad, low fat yoghurt, ½ cup brown rice
EITHER Whole meal bread with tuna or hummus and tomato and salad
OR Soup made with olive oil, garlic, tomato, vegetables, barley, chickpeas/kidney beans/lentils
OR Whole meal pitta bread with falafel, yoghurt, cucumber, tomato, green salad
OR Fish cooked in olive oil with vegetables including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, capsicum, mushrooms, zucchini
OR Chicken casserole with olive oil, onion, garlic, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, barley.
OR Chickpeas and fennel – Caramelise fennel in olive oil for 15 mins, add ground coriander, cooked chickpeas, olives, lemon juice and zest. Cook for another 15 mins. Serve with couscous and salad.
OR Rosemary and garlic baked beans – Cook onion, garlic and chopped rosemary in olive oil, add cooked cannellini beans, tomato passata. Cook for 30 minutes. Bake in oven topped with parmesan. Serve with salad and wholemeal sourdough
1-2 glasses wine per day, plenty of water, 1-2 cups coffee or tea per day
Handful of nuts OR 1 piece fruit OR 1/4 cup olives