Use this food pyramid to plan Mediterranean diet menus.
The major version of the Mediterranean diet was presented by Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University's School of Public Health in the mid-1990s. It is based on eating habits of people in Crete, many other regions of Greece, and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Major components of this diet include regular physical activity, a lot of vegetables, fresh fruit for dessert, olive oil as the principal source of fat, dairy products (especially cheese and yogurt), small to moderate amounts of fish and poultry, a maximum of four eggs a week, low amounts of red meat, and low to moderate quantities of wine. Up to a handful of nuts a day is recommended. About one quarter to one third of the calories are in the form of dietary fat, but saturated fat is only 8% or less.
Why not try this Mediterranean diet recipe tonight?
Many Mediterranean diet supporters recommend regular physical exercise, drinking 6 glasses of water a day, and moderate wine consumption. You may substitute other oils rich in monounsaturated fats, such as canola or peanut oil, for olive oil. If you are watching your weight you should limit your oil consumption.†
This diet is an example of a nutritional paradox: while Mediterranean peoples tend to consume relatively high amounts of fat, they have far lower rates of cardiovascular disease than people residing in countries like the United States. This situation is similar to the well-known French Paradox. Many researchers point to olive oil as a possible explanation of this paradox. Unlike animal fats often found in the American diet, olive oil lowers both cholesterol levels and sugar levels in the blood. Olive oil also lowers blood pressure, prevents peptic ulcers, and may be a factor in preventing cancer. Red wine is an important part of this diet. Its health aspects include powerful antioxidants known as flavonoids.
Traditional Mediterranean Diet book including Mediterranean diet recipes and tips.
Dietary factors are probably only a part of the reason for the health benefits enjoyed by these cultures. Genetics, lifestyle (notably heavy physical labor), and environment may also be involved. It would be interesting to follow up on this latter assertion; undoubtedly Mediterranean peoples are doing less physical labor than forty years ago.
Some people question whether this diet provides enough calcium and iron. Donít think that the Mediterranean diet is typical of all Mediterranean cuisine. For example, the vast majority of Muslims in North Africa drink no wine. Their cooking fats include sheep's tail fat and rendered butter. And in Northern Italy people commonly cook with lard and butter and use olive oil for dressing cooked vegetables and salads.
What about wine in this diet? As always, go for moderation. Women and men over the age of 65 should limit their intake to 5 ounces (about 150 milliliters) a day. Men under 65 may double these amounts. Should you so desire, you may obtain the same heart health benefits by substituting purple grape juice for red wine. If you do go for wine, why not try a red wine from a Mediterranean country such as France or Italy? And if you are unable to limit your wine intake, go for the unfermented grape juice.