The Mediterranean diet has been around for decades; however, only recently has it received much publicity and rave reviews. It is thought of as much more than a diet; it’s a lifestyle change in your eating habits, improving your metabolism and reducing any hunger cravings. It is based on the dietary patterns of the people of southern Italy, Crete, Greece and Spain from the 1960’s, which feature an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish. It also emphasises the importance of exercising and including this as a regular part of your daily routine.
People who adhere to such a lifestyle can have a 70% longer life expectancy and an 80% better quality of life. Therefore this diet is not specifically for those wanting to lose weight, but can also be used by those wanting a healthier lifestyle. It is believed that this eating style can help to prevent many diseases and conditions such as strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, unstable insulin levels, asthma, allergies, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancers. A main point of this diet is that it strongly encourages you to not smoke, and for the most part people follow this rule and it’s better for their health.
Now let’s get into the diet itself: it is considered low in saturated fats (bad fats like red meat), and high in monounsaturated fats (good fats like olive oil), and fibre. It is broken down into proteins comprising 20%, fats 35% and carbohydrates 45% of your daily meals. The overall breakdown of the diet is:
- A high consumption of olive oil
- A high intake of fruits/vegetables/ legumes
- Non-refined carbohydrates (no processed products)
- Fish 3-4 times a week
- A moderate amount of milk/ cheese/ yoghurts (low fat variety)
- 3-4 eggs a week
- Low consumption of red meat
- 1-2 glasses of wine, preferably red, a day
- Nuts as a snack
- Honey as a sweetener (instead of sugar)
- 6 glasses of water a day
The are many protein options including fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, yoghurts and very little red meat in this diet. Although the traditional Mediterranean diet provides 40% of your total daily calories from fat, it is via monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, which is a good source of antioxidants and omega 3, and is cholesterol free. It is important to remember that if you are trying to lose weight you will need to watch your intake of olive oil due to its high caloric value.
The final major component of this diet is the inclusion of daily exercise, at least 30 minutes. Not only will this help you achieve any weight loss goals faster, it will improve your cardiovascular fitness and leave you feeling fitter, stronger and healthier. The overall health effects of this diet are credited to the small portions, regular exercise and the emphasis on fresh foods.