Eating the Mediterranean way
The Mediterranean diet comes up time and time again in reports as one of the healthiest diets one can follow, with studies finding it beneficial to a whole host of conditions from heart disease to hayfever. The secret is likely to be in the anti-inflammatory properties of the diet, as well as its richness in fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. But there is also an holistic element – as well as foods the Mediterranean Diet places exercise and the social element of sharing food with others as fundamental to a healthy lifestyle.
The original was introduced in the 90s as a way to visualise the general dietary habits of countries with some of the longest life expectancies in the world. While the original model is still valid, the pyramid was updated in 2008 to incorporate liberal use of herbs and spices (for their antioxidant and digestive properties), as well as putting greater emphasis on the consumption of fish (high in Omega 3 fats which contribute to the health of the skin, heart and nervous system).
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
A contemporary approach to delicious, healthy eating
Source: Oldways (Copyright) www.oldwayspt.org
With plant based foods making up the majority of the diet, fish and pulses provide the main sources of protein while poultry, eggs and dairy foods are consumed in smaller amounts. Other types of meat and sweets are at the top of the pyramid, indicating they are eaten only occasionally. And don’t forget the garlic and olive oil, both of which have been studied extensively for their individual health benefits.
Whole grains including wheat feature in large quantities, which may come as a surprise when we are so often told that wheat contributes to our modern day health problems. But since many of the problems with wheat relate to allergy and inflammation, it is likely the Mediterranean diet provides some protection via high levels of anti-inflammatory flavonoids and healthy fats, along with immune boosting antioxidants. Mediterranean cookery also includes plenty of garlic and onions which contain quercetin – a flavonoid which has been shown to have particular anti-allergy properties.
An important point to note is that this is not a diet to be followed for a set period of time, but rather a way of life. So why not re-think your own diet ‘pyramid’ and see if there are any changes you could make for the better.
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