Discover the healthy Mediterranean diet and all its benefits, find out top 10 reasons to adop it in your life.
From Morocco and Egypt in North Africa to France and Spain in Western Europe and Greece and Cyprus in Eastern Europe, no fewer than sixteen countries border the Mediterranean Sea. Each is distinct with its own culture, traditions and even religious practices, but one thing that unites these Mediterranean countries is their diet. Although spices, cooking methods and recipes may vary, their basic ingredients are all the same. Just like in Spain they each prepare ample amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, eat fish and whole foods regularly, obtain their energy from bread and potatoes, cook with olive oil and accompany it all with red wine. However, with so much oil, salt and bread why is this diet so acclaimed and apparently good for you? Here, we outline the Top 10 reasons it's so healthy…
Top 10 Reasons to adopt the Mediterranean Diet
- There is simply no substitute for fresh fruit and vegetables! Spaniards on the Mediterranean coastline often eat up to a pound of vegetables each day. Whether as a snack between meals, as part of a delicious crunchy salad for lunch or as a healthy dessert alternative, they are packed full of vitamins, nutrients and fibre that are essential for a healthy well-being. Look for green vegetables, as these contain iron, that you won't get from red meat in this diet, and bright fruit and vegetables, which contain the most antioxidants. Of course, all are low in calories too!
- Whole foods like cereals, lentils and nuts form an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. They are high in fibre, which aids your digestive system, and are far healthier, keeping you fuller for longer, than white bread and pasta. Nuts make a great mid-morning or afternoon snack, although they are high in calories so you shouldn't really eat more than a handful a day. They also contain natural and essential oils that help your hair and nails to shine!
- Aside from the warm sun, clear blue sea and soft sand, living on the Mediterranean coastline certainly has its advantages. All local food markets have fresh fish and seafood each morning lining their stalls, so there is no excuse for not consuming a healthy amount. Oily fish, such as sardines and anchovies, which are caught in abundance off the Spanish coast, contain omega-3 fatty acids and are low in calories. Omega-3 is excellent for your heart and brain, but bake, grill or cook your fish in olive oil, not butter!
- Olive oil is perhaps they key difference between the Mediterranean diet and food regimes elsewhere. We've all heard of saturated and monosaturated fat, but which one's good for you and why? Basically monosaturated fat does not raise your cholesterol in the same way as saturated fat does. It contains dietary fibre and has been known to lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure. So cook with olive oil… dip your bread in it, dress your salad with it and toss your pasta in it to ensure you receive your recommended two tablespoons full every day.
- Fancy a tipple? Then go ahead! Red wine occupies a prominent position in the Mediterranean diet, a glass a day with your evening meal is actually good for you. Known for its antioxidant properties, it contributes to a balanced diet, however it should obviously be consumed in moderation.
- It is a paradoxical fact that despite similar levels of fat consumption the Spaniards have fewer heart attacks and coronary problems than other countries, for example the United States This is due to the Mediterranean diet and its healthy properties. Monosaturated fat, found in olive oil, nuts and fish helps to keep your coronary arteries clear which enables blood to efficiently deliver oxygen and nutrients to where it is needed. Saturated fat, on the other hand, found in more processed foods, such as butter, cakes, chocolate etc., has been scientifically proven to increase the risk of heart attack and coronary disease.
- In addition to reducing your risk of coronary problems, monosaturated fat, which forms a substantial part of the Mediterranean diet, helps to maintain a normal blood pressure. Clear arteries and healthy blood sugar levels, combined with a healthy lifestyle of course, should prevent your blood pressure from rocketing.
- As well as reducing the risk of heart disease, it has been proven than the Mediterranean diet can also reduce the risk of cancer. Packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamins, the Spanish diet stregthens the immune system. A report published in 2003 stated that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish have at least a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from cancer.
- Along the Mediterranean, food plays a large part in daily life. The 'grab and go' attitude towards meal times that exists in much of the world is simply unheard of in Spain. The largest meal of the day is eaten at lunchtime, usually about 2pm or 3pm, this means that your stomach has time to digest everything before you go to sleep, and you burn a lot of the calories off before the end of the day. Certainly far healthier than going to bed on a stuffed belly!
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should adopt the Spanish diet because on top of all its health benefits, it tastes delicious! Fresh salad topped with crumbled goats cheese, followed by oily fish, served with crisp leaves and fresh bread dipped in balsamic vinegar, accompanied by a fruity glass of red wine…yes please!
Of course, a balanced diet contributes to a healthy lifestyle but in addition regular exercise, low stress levels and a sufficient amount of sleep and water are paramount. The Mediterranean diet is not a difficult one to adopt, or stick to: There is an endless choice of food, just cook it properly and eat in moderation. Why not give it a try?