Posted by: 4pack | February 12, 2009

“Mediterranean Diet” Is Based Upon “Enjoyment Of Food, And Respect And Pleasure Of Food”

mediterraneandietpyramid“One of the basic tenets is the enjoyment of food, and respect and pleasure of food,”

The diet is plant-based in nature, with a heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans and olive oil. Eggs, dairy, poultry and fish are consumed regularly, but the portions are smaller than typically consumed in a Western diet.

 

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/11/confusion-about-mediterranean-cuisine/?hp

What foods are included in the typical Mediterranean diet?

Mediterranean eating is focused on simple cooking and includes all the foods you already eat, just in different proportions. The diet is plant-based in nature, with a heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans and olive oil. Eggs, dairy, poultry and fish are consumed regularly, but the portions are smaller than typically consumed in a Western diet. Meat makes only an occasional appearance, and it’s usually added in small amounts to make sauces, beans and pasta dishes more flavorful. Refined sugar and flour and butter and fats other than olive oil are consumed rarely, if at all.

Mediterranean eating also typically includes moderate consumption of red wine. One of the key components of Mediterranean eating has to do with the elevation of the meal as a social event. Meals are consumed at leisure with family and friends.

“One of the basic tenets is the enjoyment of food, and respect and pleasure of food,” says Nicki Heverling, program manager for the Mediterranean Foods Alliance, part of Oldways, the nonprofit food issues think tank that has promoted Mediterranean eating for nearly two decades. “When you’re in the Mediterranean, your meals are three hours and you savor your food.”

Why do so many of my recipes for French, Italian and Greek foods have loads of cheese and meat in them?

The Mediterranean eating plan is based on foods that have traditionally been consumed by communities situated along the Mediterranean sea. Many of the recipes we typically associate with Mediterranean countries don’t come from coastal communities, but from regions farther to the north. Today’s Mediterranean diet pyramid is largely based on the dietary traditions of the Greek island of Crete and southern Italy around the 1960s, when rates of chronic disease were among the lowest in the world, and adult life expectancy was among the highest. Unfortunately, many of the communities where the diet was first studied have changed dramatically, a concern chronicled in the recent Times story “Fas Food Hits Mediterranean; a Diet Succumbs.”

How do we know Mediterranean eating is good for you?

The original work that sparked scientific interest in Mediterranean eating habits came from researcher Ancel Keyes at the University of Minnesota. His landmark seven countries study focused on the link between eating habits along the Mediterranean and better health, despite inferior medical care in the region. Research on the diet took off in the 1990s, as scientists noted that people in Mediterranean countries lived longer and had low rates of serious disease despite high rates of smoking and drinking. Last year, the British medical journal BMJ published an extensive review of Mediterranean diet studies. It found that the eating plan is associated with significant health benefits, including lower rates of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. More recently, researchers found a link between Mediterranean eating and diabetes risk as well as lower blood pressure. The Oldways Web site offers a lengthy list of studies of Mediterranean eating and health.

Do I really have to eat meat only once a month?

While the traditional diet included meat only about once a month or on special occasions, most health experts say adhering to Mediterranean eating doesn’t have to mean giving up meat. It just means consuming smaller portions less often. If you are packing your diet with produce, nuts, legumes and whole grains, you won’t have a lot of room left on your plate for big servings of meat anyway. “What we try to convey to people is don’t cut anything out of your diet you enjoy,” says Ms. Heverling of Oldways. “Make smaller portions and when you have it, really enjoy it. In the traditional diet, someone wasn’t eating a 12-ounce Porterhouse steak. They ate small bits of meat in a sauce. It was there to get flavor and taste from. Meat is delicious and they knew that.”

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