Traditionally, Western Europe has two broad nutritional approaches - the Northern European and Southern European. The Mediterranean Diet is Southern European, and more specifically focuses on the eating habits of the people of Crete, much of Greece, and southern Italy.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the Mediterranean diet as an eating plan that can help promote health and prevent disease. And the Mediterranean diet is one your whole family can follow for good health.
The results of a study done by Harvard Medical School, published in 1993, on the diet pattern of some of the countries bordering the Mediterranean were indeed an eye opener.
It broke the myth that fat and carbohydrates were responsible for obesity and heart ailments. The truth is that the right kind of fat and carbohydrates were essential elements of a healthy diet. As proof of their findings, they showed the reduced instances of obesity, heart ailments and diabetes, of the people living in these countries.
But then, what exactly is the Mediterranean diet, and does it help one to lose weight?
It is simply the way people eat in countries bordering the Mediterranean. While there are differences in the specific foods, but the study was conducted where people were given same groups of food containing same amount of calories. The diet is mainly foods that come from plants; grains, vegetables especially green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans legumes, nuts, and olive oil. So the foods that are common in the Mediterranean Countries are olives, grapes, wheat and what can be made from these foodstuffs. Added advantages of these foods are their nutritional value; they provide antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Olive oil was the main source of fat in the food that was used in the study. Actually their food contained more fat (40%) than recommended by USDA (30%) for Americans. Even then, the results were startling. Thus, it proves that it is the kind of fat and carbohydrates that they consume which is more important.
The Mediterranean Diet can help people avoid what is called the 'Diseases of Affluence.' These diseases are common in Westernized, industrialized nations and include Heart Disease, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and some Cancers.
Grains and fruits and vegetables constitute 60% of total carbohydrates. These include whole rice, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, polenta, pasta (made with whole grain, not refined white flour)
Red meat, fish and poultry used infrequently:
A characteristic Mediterranean adult would eat approximately 15 ounces of red meat and poultry in a week. They would consume 5 to 15 ounces of fish weekly as part of their meat protein consumption. On the other hand, a typical American adult diet plan includes 1 pound steak for dinner on a night followed by 1/2 pound chicken the next night and this goes on.
Olive oil is a mono saturated oil, which provides good fat content. It lowers cholesterol and is a good food additive. Though adding fat to your diet may sound disastrous to many, but believe it or not, our body needs some. But it has to be good fat, or else many of the vitamins that we take, may not be utilized.
Another very important element of Mediterranean lifestyle was physical activity. They normally walk rather than drive, and some form of physical activity is always included in working at home or for recreation. Physical activity is extremely important if you wish to lose weight or keep maintaining the weight, once you have reached your goal.
The secret of the Mediterranean diet is to base the diet plan on healthy carbohydrate sources. These include leafy green vegetables, vegetables that have bight colors and whole grains. Meat is used very sparingly, not more than 3 to 6 ounces per day.
Get your dietary fat from vegetable sources or fish oil. Regular physical exercise to maintain your body functions.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
Will you lose weight on the Mediterranean diet?
While some research has linked the Mediterranean diet to weight loss or a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese, the jury's still out, according to a 2008 analysis of 21 studies in Obesity Reviews. Still, if you build a "calorie deficit" into your plan - eating fewer calories than your daily recommended max, or burning off extra by exercising - you should shed some pounds. How quickly and whether you keep them off is up to you. Remember Mediterranean diets are not like any other weight loss diet plans. It shows you how to eat healthy, to reach your desired weight goal and remain with that weight.
a) Can people still enjoy weight loss and effective weight management even if Mediterranean diet is high in fat?
While the Mediterranean diet is high in fat, it is high in the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated healthy fats, in contrast to diets rich in saturated fat. It is not the fat content that will determine weight loss on the Mediterranean diet. People who wish to eat the Mediterranean diet may experience other health benefits but still not lose weight if they do not lower their caloric intake.
b) Is there a major difference between Mediterranean diet and American diet?
Americans consume high numbers of red meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, while the Mediterranean includes very little. The diet also differs from the typical American diet through its dependence on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, olive oil, beans, breads, cereals, and potatoes.
c) Is it true that Mediterranean diet can lower the risk of heart disease?
Diet is a major factor in lowering the incidences of heart disease in the Mediterranean region. This has been proven by research and studies conducted by health and diet experts. Another big factor is the holistic approach of the Mediterranean diet. This diet does not only focus on foods but on maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well.
d) Is exercise still required if one is following a Mediterranean diet?
Exercise is always essential no matter what type of diet you follow. The best thing about the Mediterranean diet is that it encourages daily regular exercises as part of the holistic approach to achieve a healthy lifestyle. When this type of diet was introduced in the sixties, exercise and physical activities were already part of the culture of the Mediterranean people. For your minimum exercise needs, you have to take a daily one-hour walk and weekly full body exercise.
e) Is Mediterranean diet different from Low Carb diet?
Mediterranean diet is substantially different from Low Carb diet. For one thing, the Mediterranean program has lower protein component. You will only get 15 percent calories from the protein of Mediterranean diet.
f) People noticed that wine is an important part of Mediterranean diet. What is the recommended daily wine consumption?
Men should generally get 5 percent calories from wine while women should consume 2.5 percent calories. As a rule, always drink wine in low to moderate amounts daily to enjoy best results.
g) Final words
The Mediterranean lifestyle is most effective when including a range of root vegetables, foods high in omega-3 acids, and vegetable oils such as flaxseed or canola. Along with fruits, breads, and cereals, these foods may lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.