Over the decades, investigators have made a number of attempts to identify a diet that provides the most effective nutritional benefit, while promoting reductions in incidences of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain neurological disorders. A recent meta-analysis indicates consuming a balanced diet comprised of vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, dairy, and meat/poultry support a healthy lifestyle, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular mortality1, 2. This type of diet also contains high levels of antioxidants reducing the presence of free radical oxygen species that can harm cells in the body. For this and other reasons, the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced incidences for developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
See chart below for the suggested components of the Mediterranean diet:
Comparison of dietary recommendations for three Mediterranean diet pyramids.
|Foods||Mediterranean Diet Foundation (2011) 3|
|Olive oil||Every meal|
|Vegetables||≥2 serves every meal|
|Fruits||1–2 serves every meal|
|Breads and cereals||1–2 serves every meal|
|Legumes||≥2 serves weekly|
|Nuts||1–2 serves daily|
|Fish/Seafood||≥2 serves weekly|
|Eggs||2–4 serves weekly|
|Poultry||2 serves weekly|
|Dairy foods||2 serves daily|
|Red meat||<2 serves/week|
|Red wine||In moderation and respecting social beliefs|
* Serving sizes specified as: 25 g bread, 100 g potato, 50–60 g cooked pasta, 100 g vegetables, 80 g apple, 60 g banana, 100 g orange, 200 g melon, 30 g grapes, 1 cup milk or yoghurt, 1 egg, 60 g meat, 100 g cooked dry beans.
Just to keep this post short, I will focus on the fat portion of the Mediterranean diet, which contains high levels of monounsaturated fat while having low amounts of saturated fat. That is a good thing, because not all fat is bad, our bodies need fat for lots of things; however, it’s harder for our bodies to breakdown saturated fats, so best to stick with mono or unsaturated fats. So, for all of you cooks out there, continue to use olive oil in your preparations. Also, extra-virgin and virgin olive oils, have high levels of those antioxidants I mentioned earlier. So, when you can pass on the butter, and stick to the olive oil!
1. Sofi F, Abbate R, Gensini GF, et al: Accruing evidence on benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on health: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 92:1189–96, 2010
2. Sofi F, Macchi C, Abbate R, et al: Mediterranean diet and health status: An updated meta-analysis and a proposal for a literature-based adherence score. Public Health Nutr 17:2769–2782, 2013
3. Bach-Faig A, Berry EM, Lairon D, et al: Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. Public Health Nutr 14:2274–2284, 2011