The mediterranean diet is not a specific diet plan or diet program but a collection of eating habits that are traditionally followed by the people of the Mediterranean region. There are at least 16 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and food habits vary between these countries according to culture, ethnic background and religion. But there are a number of characteristics common to them all. Traditional mediterranean diet puts its emphasis on vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, cereals, and olive oil.
Olive oil , high in monounsaturated fat :
Olive oil is first choice for investigation as it is used almost exclusively in Mediterranean cooking instead of butter, margarine and other fats. Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fat, which is protective against heart disease, possibly because it displaces saturated fat from the diet. Olive oil is also a source of antioxidants including vitamin E. But it is important to remember that olive oil is used to prepare vegetable dishes, tomato sauces, salads and to fry fish.
People in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea exhibit strikingly low rates of heart disease compared to others. Extensive research in the past few years has isolated key dietary habits as a vital part of the vicinities lower rates of chronic disease.
Features of the Mediterranean diet:
- High consumption of breads, pasta, rice, couscous, polenta, bulgur and potatoes
- High consumption of fruits (3-4 pieces a day), legumes and vegetables (5 different varieties)
- Moderate amounts of grilled and steamed fish
- Moderate amounts of olive oil - consumed with fresh vegetables and on salads
- Small portions of lean red meat with no visible fat, lean pork
- Alcohol in small amounts
- High intake of antioxidants
- Regular exercise is believed to be such an important part of Mediterranean health that it is
||Variations of this diet have traditionally existed in other parts of Italy, parts of Spain and Portugal, southern France, parts of North Africa (especially Morocco and Tunisia), parts of Turkey, other parts of the Balkan region, as well as parts of the Middle East (especially Lebanon and Syria). The diet is closely tied to traditionally areas of olive oil cultivation in the Mediterranean region.|