"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

The Mediterranean “diet” is actually a life-style with advantages

November 13, 2023 – What’s the very first thing that involves mind whenever you consider the word “diet”? For most individuals, weight-reduction plan means giving up enjoyable foods, regulating meal times and counting calories. When you delve just a little deeper into the origins of the word, it becomes more palatable: The word “diet” comes from the Greek word “diata,” which implies “way of life.”

For the traditional Greeks, diata meant visiting healing temples, saunas, meditation rooms and, above all, having fun with various foods in a convivial atmosphere. This pattern of eating and living created a blueprint for what got here to be often called the Mediterranean eating regimen, a holistic lifestyle wherein the entire is far greater than the sum of its parts.

“I prefer to say that Mediterranean cuisine is a helpful and enjoyable lifestyle plan that permits you to eat quite a lot of what's good for you – and sometimes enjoy just a little of what's not – without sacrificing anything,” said Amy Riolo , an award-winning author, chef, television host and author of 16 books. Riolo was named Ambassador of Italian Cuisine in the United States and Ambassador of Mediterranean Cuisine in the World by the Italian news agency ANSA.

“Diet is about more than just the food you eat,” added Pam Fullenweider, a registered dietitian who specializes in the Mediterranean diet and is a culinary nutritionist. “It’s the lifestyle components of daily exercise and social connection – enjoying meals with others – that make it so unique.”

Lifestyle with benefits

The Mediterranean diet has been in effect for years took first or second place In US News and World Reports annual “Best Diets” rankings. There is countless evidence to support its value, and multiple studies show that when the cornerstones of the Mediterranean lifestyle – diet/food, exercise/physical activity and social connectivity – are taken into account, a wealth of benefits arise including heart health, mental well-being , Prevention of cognitive decline, control of blood sugar and longevity can be achieved.

Stefanos Kales, MD, a preventive medicine doctor and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, has been researching this lifestyle for decades. He also has a personal connection, explaining that his Greek grandmother was the bridge to the Mediterranean, particularly Crete.

“When I was growing up, I was lucky that my grandmother, who was well into her 90s, spent a lot of time with us. She always used olive oil and picked what were essentially weeds for every other American. But they were valuable greens for cleaning and preparation,” he said.

He noted that the value of this connection to the past was reinforced later during his studies.

“Great nutrition professors believed that the best way to eat was to imitate what your grandparents told you,” he said.

Kales said the Mediterranean lifestyle was born out of necessity. Because olives, native to the Mediterranean, cannot be eaten raw, people learned to grow and prepare them by harvesting the ripe or semi-ripe fruit and pressing it into oil. The diet was plant-based, relying on wild greens, seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, and homemade wine. Meat and dairy products were not eaten regularly. The lifestyle was agrarian and people walked up to 10 km (6.2 miles) daily. They got enough rest and took a siesta in the afternoon.

The social aspect – breaking bread together – was and is essential.

“The key to the Mediterranean diet is to incorporate the social aspect of eating and ensure that you eat not only to nourish your body but also your soul, so that you not only enjoy the food, but eat and enjoy it with others. “,” said Rahaf Al Bochi, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition, a virtual nutrition counseling practice. Al Bochi, who is also a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is very familiar with the Mediterranean lifestyle, having grown up in the Mediterranean region of the Middle East.

Studies of so-called Blue Zones, where people regularly live over 100, “talk concerning the day-long meal – the lunch where everyone seems to be together, and the way much psychological impact that has on them,” Riolo said. The positive effects of socialization, in turn, help “boost the hormones of digestion and metabolism, as well as the way we store fat.”

First steps

Unlike many “quick fix” diets that involve a specific list of foods or a specific eating plan for a specific period of time, the Mediterranean lifestyle is sustainable – and that's because it emphasizes taste, enjoyment, physical activity and sociability.

“Instead of just focusing on weight as an outcome, it focuses on how food makes you feel, gives you energy, helps you feel more energetic and reduces the risk of chronic disease,” Al Bochi said.

Key food categories include lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole and unrefined grains, and olive oil; moderate fish consumption; little dairy products, meat and poultry; and a moderate amount of wine with meals. These categories are adaptable to a person's cultural heritage and background, a point emphasized by both Al Bochi and Riolo. And the overall benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle – benefits that include a lower risk of dying from any cause and from cancer – support that it is adaptable regardless of where you live, according to a Recent study Co-authored by Kales.

Another important factor is that it is never too late to start:

  • Do a quick assessment of your slab and determine where the gaps are. “Instead of thinking about what foods you want to limit or avoid — which is usually people’s diet mentality — think about what you can add,” Al Bochi said. “Is it more fruit, more vegetables, more fiber-rich whole grains or beans and legumes?”
  • Focus on the quality and freshness of the ingredients and pay attention to the season, advises Riolo. Frozen fruits and vegetables may be the freshest and cheapest option, and that's perfectly acceptable.
  • Think about your time and your own budget and compare these to your desired results. It's helpful to decide when you can prepare food. Socializing time can also include cooking with others or inviting friends over for dinner.
  • Don't try to change too many things at once, Fullenweider said. Take it step by step. “Maybe it's so simple as adding chopped vegetables to scrambled eggs or more vegetables to pasta,” she said.
  • Look at the entire and not only the person parts. To take full advantage of its health and dietary advantages, the Mediterranean lifestyle also emphasizes physical activity, with an emphasis on what’s fun, be it walking, gardening, dancing, swimming, etc., Riolo said.
  • Avoid cherry picking. Drinking more red wine or adding olive oil to meals won’t reap the complete advantages.
  • Finally, concentrate on each taste and nutrition. “I believe that the Mediterranean lifestyle is a love language,” Riolo said. “In Italian there is a characteristic that the more you enjoy the food, the better it is digested.”