Hello everybody! Welcome to my blog. A blog where you can find a lot of information about healthy lifestyle: exercise, nutrition, sleeping habits and other healthy practices that you can incorporate in your life.
Today’s subject is the Mediterranean diet.
What is it?
The Mediterranean diet is the pattern of eating that comes from the countries in the Mediterranean Sea. If you have never seen a map of this area of the world, in the north of the Mediterranean Sea we have European countries like Spain, France, Italy or Greece, in the eastern part we have some Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Lebanon or Israel and on the south, we can see the North African countries, from Morocco to Egypt.
Some of these countries are very well known as the ones with the best cuisines in the world. And what do these countries have in common? Yeah, the Mediterranean diet.
Why is it so good for your health?
The goodness of this diet is the high quality of the resources and the variety. As we know, a good nutrition happens when we take the correct amount of:
- The three macro nutrients, called carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
- Vitamins and minerals.
Here is one of the Mediterranean pyramids you can find on the Internet. On the base, we have exercise and something very important: enjoying meals with others. This is very interesting. In the countries mentioned before, the importance of sharing meals with your family or friends is very important. Eating should be more than an action of getting food in our bodies, it should be an enjoyable part of our every day. The Mediterranean food culture promotes a healthy relationship between people and nutrition, providing good quality food and an environment of joy.
On top of these two important elements, we can see all the products that come from the vegetable world. This is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is considered the healthiest: the importance of the consumption of fruit and vegetables. This is the base for healthy eating. Did you know that fruit and vegetables are sources of carbohydrates? Yes, it’s not all about pasta and rice!
Alongside these vegetables and fruit, we have the whole grains. Thankfully, there is more information nowadays about the refined bread and pasta. These refined foods have grains that are not whole, meaning that one or more of the three main parts of the grain have been removed. These parts that have been removed contain protein, fibre, B vitamins and other minerals that are essential for our health. Aim for whole grains and scrap the white refined pasta and bread.
In this group we find good sources of healthy fats, like nuts, legumes, beans and the absolute protagonist of the Mediterranean diet: olive oil. Olive oil has omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, very important for body function. It also plays a key role in brain function.
I love this part of the pyramid. It’s so colourful, it describes perfectly the essence of this healthy diet.
The next group of foods is the fish and seafood. Fish also contains essential fatty acids and is a source of protein and other vitamins and minerals. It’s truth that nowadays the sea and ocean contamination is very high, so I would recommend you get your seafood from a trusted supplier.
Almost at the top of the pyramid we can find the poultry, eggs and dairy products. Here is where the conflicts start. Some specialists believe that the eggs should be closer to the bottom, maybe with the seafood. Eggs have been demonised for a long time because it was believed that the yolk had too much cholesterol. It has been demonstrated that they are very healthy, both the egg white and the yolk (may I say, especially the yolk). Here you can see the nutrients in both the egg white and the yolk.
Probably here is where this diet stops working for every person in the world.
Middle eastern and western countries have a good tolerance to lactose. Asiatic countries, on the other hand, and because of the evolution, are not adapted to lactose consumption.
It happens in the animal kingdom. The mammals get the milk from their mums, this milk is called colostrum. This milk is very important for the newborns. It has been demonstrated the benefits of having colostrum for both the baby’s overall health and the mum’s psychological health. But that is a subject for another post.
Once we finish the moment of our lives in which we drink our mum’s colostrum, all animals stop drinking milk. The image of the cat having milk is a myth, they need to drink water and eat an appropriate diet containing calcium. It’s the same for us humans.
We don’t need to keep drinking milk for the rest of our lives. What we do need is a good source of calcium. The good news is, calcium is found not only in milk or yogurt, but in other products like certain vegetable drinks or fish bones, among others.
With this, I am not trying to demonise the dairy products. I love finishing my day with a Greek yogurt. Nonetheless, the big companies have taken this as an advantage, creating a series of products based on milk but that are basically sugar: milkshakes, flavoured yogurts, some types of cheese.
Be critical about this. You can have a yogurt or a piece of cheese every day but get the healthy options.
Now we get to the top of the pyramid. In my opinion, the sweets should not be here. Yes, it’s not going to kill you if you have a sweet every now and again, but the fact that is in the pyramid is making people comfortable having it often. As I always say to my clients, if you want to eat a piece of cake on a birthday party, you should, but don’t sabotage yourself adding this cake to your groceries. Especially when you are trying to start eating healthier and you can’t control the impulse of eating sweets.
With the sweets, we find the red meats. Instead of less often, I would say occasional consumption. It’s wrong to think that we need red meat for the protein or B12 vitamins. You can find all the protein you need in many other foods, as well as the B12 vitamins (seafood, some vegetable drinks that are fortified with B12, fortified cereals). If you are vegan and you worry about the lack of B12, talk to your nutritionist so they can recommend you a supplement of B12. This is the only group of people that might need to take supplements.
On the side, we see water and wine (in moderation). And this opens another debate: is red wine good or bad for you?
Red wine has a series of antioxidants that might be good for your health, but it has alcohol. Alcohol is high caloric (1 g of alcohol is 7 kcal) and it’s not nutritious, not to mention the side effects of its consumption.
Pros and cons
As we have seen before, the Mediterranean diet is not just a pattern of eating, it’s more like a lifestyle: active life full of physical and social activity, including sharing meals with people.
The foods that belong to the Mediterranean diet pyramid are healthy, natural and not very processed.
The most important part of the diet is the leadership of the vegetal kingdom. This diet is based on vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, vegetable oils, legumes and pulses.
The fish is more important than any other type of animal products, including dairy.
On the other hand, we still find foods that we know are not good for our health because they are highly processed, or the content is not precisely healthy.
The Mediterranean diet is the best option for Mediterranean countries and other countries with similar resources but might not be the best option for East Asian countries or African nations, because they are used to other type of foods, and they are adapted to it.
Some ideas of Mediterranean dishes
Just in case you want to try some Mediterranean style meals, here I leave some ideas. Let me know if you’d like the recipe!
Fish with mashed potatoes.
Whole grain pasta with pisto (you have the recipe for pisto in the link below).
Quinoa with vegetables and homemade tomato sauce.
Raw carrots and cucumber with hummus dip.
Green beans with boiled potatoes and vinegar
Tortilla de patata (Spanish omelette, recipe coming soon!)
And many many others!
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See you next week!