The Mediterranean Diet is really a testament to eating local, fresh, and proportionate to nutritional needs.
The geographical areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (think Italy, France, Spain, Morocco) were difficult to farm due to challenging terrain and erratic weather conditions, and limited ability to import food items. The Mediterranean eating pattern has often been referred to as “the poor man’s diet” because of this.
Inhabitants of these areas managed to cultivate ways to survive and thrive, however, and farmers began to use creative ways to consume the capers, olives and olive oil, grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and peppers that grew successfully. The use of herbs and spices were emphasized, and sweeteners were produced from grapes.
Foods with healthy fats such as almonds, olives and fish are staples of the Mediterranean Diet, along with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Portions are small, but nutrients abundant in these healthy, nutrient-dense foods! Check out the Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid here.
Consuming fresh and local foods full of flavor and beneficial additions like herbs and spices are really what the Mediterranean Diet is about. Appropriate amounts of healthy unsaturated fats, protein foods, and carbohydrates are eaten in a way that is flavorful, satisfying and memorable.
The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in nuts and olives, antimicrobial properties of Mediterranean herbs and spices such as basil, thyme and rosemary, along with the polyphenols and antioxidants in vegetables and fruits (think lycopene in cooked tomatoes and resveratrol in grapes) support cardiovascular health and combat inflammation.
Try some components of the Mediterranean Diet tonight at dinner!
Drizzle fresh tomatoes extra virgin olive oil and chopped basil and whip out your food processor and make a fresh pesto. Try snacking on a handful of raw almonds when you need a healthy snack. Go to your local farmers markets to find fresh aromatic herbs and interesting vegetables. Buy sustainable local seafood and yes, if you already partake responsibly, have a small glass (5oz) of locally sourced red wine. Enjoy!