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What is the mediterranean diet and what are its benefits?

Gastronomy tips

What is the mediterranean diet and what are its benefits?

What we know today as the Mediterranean Diet comes from the concept of Diaita used in ancient Greece. Diaita does not exclusively mean a diet or dietary pattern, but rather a lifestyle that included local ingredients, recipes and dietary habits of the Mediterranean area, with physical activity and good rest.

This dietary pattern has been associated with a lower risk of obesity and cardiovascular and metabolic risk in adults. It has also been shown that the Mediterranean Diet can slow cognitive deterioration, which is a key factor in delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Let's see where these benefits come from:

  1. Olive oil as the main fat used in cooking.
    High in vitamin E, beta-carotenes and monounsaturated fats. The Predimed study (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet) and others have demonstrated its protective effect against major cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart attack). This is the case of extra virgin olive oil, with high polyphenol content, with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  2. Abundance of plant-based foods.
    Legumes, raw nuts, unrefined whole grains, fruits and vegetables. All these foods are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and beneficial substances in general, and play a prominent role in the prevention of today’s common diseases: from diabetes and hypertension, to some types of cancer.
  3. Consumption of seasonal and unrefined foods.
    Seasonal fruits and vegetables preserve their flavor and texture better, as well as their nutritional properties. The couscous, rice, pasta and bread that they consumed were wholegrain. The unrefined whole product contains a greater variety and quantity of protective and healthy elements; like magnesium and phosphorus that can be lost in the refining process, without forgetting the fiber. In this sense, consumption of legumes, which is a very high-fiber food, is associated with the prevention of diabetes.
  4. Daily presence of fermented dairy products.
    The ancient inhabitants of the Mediterranean basin consumed natural yoghurt, curd and cheese, with no additives. Consumption of fermented milk (yogurt, kefir, cheese and curd) is positively associated with a better balance of intestinal flora.
  5. Balance in animal-based products in the diet.
    It seems they did not consume large quantities of meat or fish, except, perhaps, those who lived near the coast; although they were included as an ingredient in daily preparations. Therefore, they did not over consume animal-based food, thus allowing for a greater presence of plant-based foods, without forgetting nuts and olives.
  6. They did not eat large quantities.
    For instance, the Greeks believed that in order to maintain a perfect balance between body, mind and spirit it was advisable to maintain a similar weight throughout life. The key was to not gain weight, without punishing themselves without eating, but to lead a balanced life.

Among the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet we can highlight the type of fat (olive oil, nuts and fish), the proportions of food in their recipes (whole grains and vegetables as the basis of the dishes, and meats or similar as a "garnish") and the wealth of vitamins and minerals due to the use of seasonal vegetables, aromatic herbs and seasoning.

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