What is the ‘Mediterranean’ diet?

How to take lessons from Greece

 

We’ve all heard of the Mediterranean diet. It implies that every region and culture around the Mediterranean basin have similar diets, which is not altogether that accurate.

 

Each region experiences different diets in their amount of total fat intake, types of meat, milk versus cheese, fruits and vegetables and so on. Artemis P. Simopoulos from the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, DC researched extensively into the diets of the Mediterranean and found that the lowest heath rates and longer life expectancies occurred in Greece. He found that:

 

the traditional diet of Greece (the diet before 1960) indicate that the dietary pattern of Greeks consists of a high intake of fruits, vegetables (particularly wild plants), nuts and cereals … pasta; more olive oil and olives; less milk but more cheese; more fish; less meat; and moderate amounts of wine, more so than other Mediterranean countries.”

 

Comparing this diet with that of today’s industrialized societies the Greeks (statistically of pre-1960) had a far lower intake of saturated fat and a far more balanced intake of (n-6) to (n-3) fatty acids. Today, our intake of (n-6) to (n-3) fatty acids is roughly 17:1, whereas “during evolution it was 2:1.

 

Simopoulos also found the diet of Crete shows a number of “protective substances such as selenium, glutathione, a balanced ratio of (n-6) : (n-3) essential fatty acids (EFA), high amounts of fibre, antioxidants… vitamins E and C,” which he notes “have been shown to be associated with lower risk of cancer, including cancer of the breast.”

 

What we should really take away from the Greek diet is their balance and variety and their content of bioprotective nutrients. They diversify their meat intake with marine sources; their (n-6) : (n-3) fatty acid intake ratio is 2:1 instead of our western diet of 17:1; and they use far more antioxidants. They supplement their meals with tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs, especially mint, rosemary, oregano, parsley and dill.

OPA!

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