This diet became popular in the 1990s even though the American scientist Dr. Ancel Keys publicized the Mediterranean diet while stationed in Italy during World War II. Compared to other Western diets, the Mediterranean diet was seen by others as an enigma. Although fat consumption is high, the prevalence of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes has always been significantly lower in Mediterranean countries than northern European countries and the USA.
The non-English speaking countries of northern Europe, such as Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Austria have adopted the Mediterranean diet to a much greater degree than English speaking nations, such as the UK, Ireland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Many experts believe that is why developed English-speaking nations have a lower life expectancy than the other developed nations. The Mediterranean countries consume higher quantities of red wine, while northern European countries and the USA consume more beer. Finally, the Mediterranean diet, compared to the Anglo-Saxon diet, contains much higher quantities of unprocessed foods.
The Mediterranean diet includes:
- Lots of plant foods
- Fresh fruit as dessert
- High consumption of beans, nuts, cereals and seeds
- Olive oil as the main source of dietary fat
- Cheese and yogurt as the main dairy foods
- Moderate amounts of fish and poultry
- No more than about four eggs a week
- Small amounts of red meat (compared to northern Europe)
- Low to moderate amounts of wine
- 25-35% pf calorie intake consists of fat
Fats – low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat and high in dietary fiber.
Legumes – plants in the pea family that produce pods which slit open naturally along a seam, revealing a row of seeds.
An Italian study published in BMJ Open reported that people who stick to a Mediterranean diet tend to have better HRQL (health-related quality of life). They added that the link is stronger with mental than physical health. “Dietary total antioxidant and fiber content independently explain this relationship,” they added.
As I noted in my blog on the Vegan diet, plant-based diets either considerably reduce or totally eliminate people’s genetic propensity to developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The Mediterranean diet is probably the easiest conversion from SAD (standard American diet). It allows cultured dairy, alcohol in the form of wine and small servings of animal products. With the high fat intake, it is very satiating. However, it is still plant-based. The dietary changes are smart rather than radical. I wouldn’t limit the eggs, I recommend red wine rather than white for antioxidant content and I don’t recommend the cereals.