The Mediterranean is a glamorous part of the world – synonymous with tanned bodies, rich foods and picturesque coastlines. It’s also home to some of the healthiest people in the world. As a result, their diet has been the source of much research. But calling it a diet isn’t really accurate. It’s a lifestyle, and here’s how you can adopt it.
Thanks to dense coastlines and rich soils, the islands caressing the Mediterranean Sea serve up diets full of nuts, veggies and legumes, and olive oils. Traditionally a peasant-style diet, it’s largely plant-based, with little meat, and next to no hyper-processed foods. However, it is relatively high in fat – meaning if the Mediterranean diet is as healthy as research shows, fat is not the enemy commonly thought of in Western diets.
Numerous studies spanning decades have been carried out on the Mediterranean diet, increasingly spotlighting the staggering health benefits – reduced risk of dementia, reversed symptoms of depression and anxiety, prevention of heart attacks, and promotion of longer life expectancy. It’s also been shown to improve diabetes, high blood pressure, and bowel and prostate cancer.
There are plenty of Mediterranean cookbooks out there, but a lot of them focus on festive foods and desserts from the region, removing the traditional focus. So when it comes to eating the Mediterranean way, it’s less about souvlaki and baklava, and more about legumes, nuts, grains and veggies. Here are 7 steps to have you on your Mediterranean way.
1. Get your fat from oil Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil as your main source of fat. Drizzle up to 60mls a day on your veggies and fish.
2. Eat veggies with every meal There’s no room for error here – aim for 5 serves a day.
3. Always add legumes The humble beans and legumes are not only low in artery-clogging fat, but provide a good source of satiating fibre and protein. What’s more they’re cheap and versatile.
4. Try pescatarian twice a week Eat at least two-three servings of oily fish per week: good picks are salmon, blue-eye mackerel, gemfish, sardines and tuna.
5. Less meat is best Western diets rely on large consumption of meat, but the Mediterranean diet is all about treating meat as a side dish, rather than a main. Eat smaller portions of beef, lamb, pork and chicken.
6. Snack on fruit and nuts Fresh or dried fruit and nuts are the perfect daily snack. Eat a handful (around 30g) of nuts between meals and up two pieces of fruit every day.
7. Get your grains Pad out your meals with wholegrains, namely quinoa, brown rice, or sourdough bread. 2 slices of bread or a cup of brown rice per meal is a good guide.