Mediterranean diet is the way of eating that prefers certain viands and culinary methods developed under influence of traditional Mediterranean customs. Italian researcher Francesco Visioli, who studies natural antioxidants, cardiovascular disease and olive oil properties, thinks that the most appropriate term is „Mediterranean diets“, since different nationalities and cultures of the Mediterranean are involved. Economical, religious and sociological factors have influenced the diet of people who live in the Mediterranean.
The first description of traditional Mediterranean diet was introduced in the research conducted by Leland Allbaugh in 1953. Allbaugh noticed consumption of large quantities of olive oil, wholemeal cereals, fruit, fish and cooked vegetables in the diet of inhabitants of Greek island of Crete. Popularity of Mediterranean diet increased somewhat later, after Ancel Keys’ research which studied the influence of starvation on the health of people in Europe after the World War II.
Aside from negative effects of starvation he also noticed that decreased consumption of fats, meat, eggs and milk is directly connected with decreased risk of heart disease. Later scientific research have confirmed that eating habits of some Mediteraneans really decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. The pyramid of Mediterranean diet was on its popularity peak in the 90’s of the 20th century when it was popularized by American doctor Walter Wilett.
Basic principles of Mediterranean diet
There are many types of Mediterranean diet, but basic characteristics are the same for all:
- Olive oil is main, or only, source of fat in the diet
- Dairy products are moderately consumed
- Eggs are eaten at most four times a week
- Fish and poultry are main source of proteins of animal origin, and red meat is eaten rarely, once or twice a month
- Cretan diet is one version of Mediterranean diets, but it has some differences to basic principles of Mediterranean diet:
- Low carbs intake, most of them are taken from fresh fruit and vegetables; these are most often fruits and vegetables with low glycemic index; vegetables are often served as the main meal, and not as a side dish
- More fats are consumed, about 40% of daily intake of calories comes from fats, almost all of it from olive oil; Cretan Mediterranean diet is destitute with animal origin fats
- High consumption of wholemeal bread, about eight slices
- Moderate consumption of fish
- Consumption of lamb, chicken and pork is significantly higher than in other versions of Mediteranean diets
- Consumption of almonds and other nuts
Mediterranean diet principally has a great influence on cardiovascular disease prevention, and less on weight loss, though in long term this diet causes weight loss. There are lot of books that base their weight loss programmes on the Mediterranean diet pyramid. One of he most popular Mediterranean diets is Sonoma diet.
Health influence and special notes
Mediterranean diet is one of the scientifically most approved diets. Most of scientific research refer to it as a prevention of certain diseases like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer disease, alergic disease and perfect health diets.
Availabilyty of viands, feasibility and costs
Most of viands for this diet can be bought on the market or in any food store. People who like fresh fruit and vegetables and Mediterranean ingredients will love this diet. This diet is often advertised as cheap weight loss diet.