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What is the Mediterranean diet

Nutrition For Family Life

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is based on bread and pasta, fresh vegetables and legumes, cereals and fruit, seafood, cheese, olive oil, herbs and fermented dairy products like yogurt. Meat consumption is moderate, but there is more fish and shellfish – and a little red wine. This nutritious diet certainly isn’t short on good smell, taste, colour and pleasure! In addition, for the people of the Mediterranean region, it is not enough just to prepare good, well-balanced meals. They also have to take the time to savour their food in peace and quiet, relax in order to digest their food and take enough time to really live.

Olive oil and other fats – a healthy source of energy

Fats and oils can be of animal origin (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, lard, meat, and fish) or of plant origin (olive, sunflower, canola and peanut oils, etc.) There are three main types of fats:

  • Saturated fats – limit these as they can raise your blood cholesterol level. These fats are found in fatty meats, full cream dairy foods, coconut milk/cream, palm oil, baked goods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries and pies.
  • Monounsaturated fats have little effect on blood cholesterol levels (and may have a small positive effect). They are found in many plant oils in large proportions, especially in olive and canola oils, peanuts, avocado, lean meat, chicken and egg yolks.
  • Polyunsaturated fats reduce blood cholesterol and are beneficial to health. These fats fit into two major classes – omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Both are good and should be included in the diet. Omega 3 fatty acids are abundant in oily fish like Atlantic salmon, mackerel, trevally and sardines and can be found in plant oils and spreads made from canola and soybeans. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in polyunsaturated margarines and oils (e.g. sunflower, soybean, corn), walnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts.
Where good health tastes good

Nutrition For Family Life

  • In some Mediterranean countries even infants eat olive oil!. Olive oil tastes good and brings out the flavour of food. Being high in monounsaturated fats, it’s a good oil.
  • The people of the Mediterranean also add garlic to many of their meals which can also contribute to good health. In some areas, breakfast consists of bread rubbed with a clove of garlic or served with olives and onions.
  • Antioxidants are a group of compounds found in foods which protect our cells. They “neutralise” free radicals, which are substances produced in the body that contribute to abnormal cells being made. Antioxidants are found in high amounts in fruits, vegetables and legumes.