08 May

What is a Mediterranean diet

Lately there is a lot of talk about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. But what exactly is that?

Epidemiologic studies have shown that many people from Mediterranean countries can eat fatty diets and yet not have a high risk of heart disease.

Spaniards José Mataix of the University of Granada and Francisco Javier Barbancho of the University of Extremadura in Cáceres observe in a new book that the Mediterranean diet “is based on products derived from wheat, olive, and grape, these constituting the Mediterranean triad of bread, oil, and wine.”

In fact, Covas’ group points out that several additional features characterize diets common to the region. Among them: several daily servings of vegetables and fruits, only a small serving (100 to 150 grams) of red meat per day, few or no carbonated drinks, at least three weekly meals including shellfish or legumes, few commercially prepared pastries or sweets, servings of fowl or rabbit instead of pork or other red meats, and plenty of peanuts and other nuts.

Some studies have pointed to the alcoholic component as a substantial contributor of such diets’ cardiovascular benefits. However, others have found that people who drink as much wine and other alcoholic beverages as do Mediterranean eaters fail to get as many health benefits if they don’t follow the rest of the diet.

For instance, a separate team of all-Spanish researchers that included Covas recently reported such data in early results from the PREDIMED Study. This trial is ultimately slated to track for 4 years some 9,000 men and women at elevated risk of heart disease. Each volunteer is being randomly assigned to eat a low-fat diet or a higher-fat diet in which much of that fat, Mediterranean style, comes from either olive oil or nuts, which also are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Read more about the mediterranean diet and its benefits in Food For Thought

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