When talking about the Mediterranean diet, it is necessary to take into account the evolution of the human species through the centuries that brought with it countless changes both in their way of living and relating to the rest of the species, as well as in transformation of their diet reflected in food variations depending on geographic areas.
A long transition has occurred in the history of man from the hunters-gatherers of prehistory to the present day with substantial changes in post-industrialized societies that have also been reflected in the diet and way of eating humanity.
It is possible to see in different cultures certain characteristics that make their diets a lifestyle. This happens with the famous Mediterranean Diet, a food pattern that combines different ingredients from local agriculture through recipes and particular healthy cooking methods.
What is the Mediterranean diet
The famous and world-famous Mediterranean Diet is more than a food plan, it is a cultural heritage that invites you to lead a healthy lifestyle based on the variety of ingredients used for the preparation of recipes based on seasonal, fresh and local products and including the moderate physical activity.
This diet, as its name indicates, was born in the peoples of the Mediterranean basin, being transmitted from generation to generation for centuries and evolving and incorporating new foods and cultivation techniques according to the geographical location of these populations.
The basic ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet make up a perfect “wheat-vine-olive” trilogy to which are added vegetables, legumes, fruits, fish, cheeses and nuts and the main source of fat is olive oil. A balanced and varied eating plan The Mediterranean Diet provides the body with adequate macronutrients.
How to do the Mediterranean Diet
Being a change in eating habits, the Mediterranean Diet requires following some basic recommendations to design daily menus. These are advice on the foods to use but also related to the way of cooking and daily amounts, characteristics that aim to achieve a balanced and healthy diet.
Use olive oil : The main source of fats in the Mediterranean Diet is olive oil, a food that has endured among regional gastronomic customs through the centuries, rich in vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids and beta-carotene, giving the dishes a unique aroma and flavor.
Eat plenty of plant-based foods : Vegetables, legumes, vegetables and fruits provide the body with vitamins, minerals and fiber, as well as a good amount of water. It is recommended to include in this diet five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, as these foods have a high content of fiber and antioxidants that help prevent premature aging and prevent cardiovascular ailments.
Consume cereal-based foods : Both bread, rice and pasta should be included in the daily menu due to their composition rich in carbohydrates that provide the body with the necessary energy to carry out daily activities.
Include fresh, seasonal and little processed foods : These characteristics are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet, especially in the case of seasonal fruits and vegetables that when consumed at their best provide the body with their best nutrients, aromas and flavors.
Consume dairy products : Dairy products should be consumed daily, especially yogurt and cheese, as they are excellent sources of protein, minerals and vitamins. In the case of yogurt, this food is associated with its ability to balance the intestinal microflora due to the presence of living organisms.
Red meat in moderation : It is important to consume red meat in moderation and if possible as part of a recipe, because despite the fact that this food contains protein, iron and animal fat, its excessive consumption is not good for health, hence it is always Lean meats will be chosen that will be part of dishes based on cereals and vegetables.
Fish in abundance and eggs in moderation : The consumption of oily fish is recommended at least twice a week, as its fats have similar properties to those of plant origin that protect the body from suffering cardiovascular problems. Eggs will be consumed in moderation, three or four a week and as an alternative to meat and fish, as they provide good quality proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats.
Consume fresh fruits as dessert : It is recommended that fresh fruits be the usual dessert, leaving sweets and cakes to consume them occasionally. And is that fruits are a nutritious food that add flavor and color to the diet, being a good alternative for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
Water as a drink par excellence : Fundamental for life, water is the main drink of the Mediterranean Diet, although a glass of wine can be taken with the main meals.
Daily physical activity : Just as important as diet, daily moderate physical activity is essential to staying fit and maintaining good health. Exercises adapted to the physical capacities of each person will always be carried out since the objective is for it to be a healthy and pleasant activity.
What to eat in the Mediterranean Diet
The traditional Pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet has gained a new design adapting to the needs of the current lifestyle. Different international entities such as the Mediterranean Diet Foundation , the Forum on Mediterranean Food Cultures Hellenic Health Foundation, the Hebrew University and the Ciiscam (Centro Interuniversitario Internazionales di Studi sulle Culture Alimentari Mediterranee), among others, collaborated with this new design of the Pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet, for its use and promotion, being a fundamental tool for the design of the food plan with which the daily menus will be made.
Although the new pyramid follows the essential guidelines of the previous one, at the base are the foods that support the eating plan and in the upper strata are those that should be consumed in moderation.
However, not only is priority given to a certain type of food but it is also necessary to take into account the best way to cook and consume them, as well as the number of servings to be consumed in the main meals.
The new Pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet establishes some guidelines regarding daily, weekly and even occasional compliance with the diet in order to achieve a healthy and balanced meal plan.
This new Pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet is based on the latest scientific evidence in the field of nutrition and health that has been published in scientific articles during the last decades.
Main foods in the Mediterranean Diet
Three types of food are essential in the Mediterranean Diet:
Cereals : One or two servings should be consumed per meal, it can be bread, pasta, or rice, among other foods. The important thing is that they are preferably whole grains that contain fiber.
Vegetables : Vegetables must also be present, both at lunch and dinner, at least in one of the meals the vegetables will be consumed raw, the variety of colors and textures being important as this is essential for the contribution of antioxidants and other protective substances.
Fruits : One or two servings per meal and as a regular dessert, but guaranteeing a daily intake of about two liters of water, since correct hydration of the body is essential to maintain water balance in the body. It is therefore essential to drink water and complete the two liters of liquid daily with infusions and fruit juices.
Other foods that should be included in the Mediterranean Diet
Dairy products : Assorted cheeses and low-fat yogurt daily servings
Olive oil : It should be used for cooking and seasoning meals
Spices, herbs, onions and garlic : Not only do they help add flavor and color to foods, but they are an excellent strategy to reduce the use of salt.
Olives, nuts, and seeds : They are a good source of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. Consumption should be moderate so a handful can be included in the aperitif.
Wine : As a reference, one glass a day for women and two for men
Red meat, fish and shellfish : Eat two servings of fish and shellfish, two servings of lean red meat, and two to four eggs per week.
Legumes combined with cereals : Good source of protein of vegetable origin, potatoes can also be included in traditional meat and fish recipes, but a maximum of three servings a week.
Foods to consume occasionally : Sweets are at the top of the pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet, therefore sugar, candies, cakes, pastries, sugary fruit juices and sugary soft drinks should be consumed in small quantities and only sporadically.
Serving size : Moderation is the basis of the Mediterranean Diet and hence the serving size should be based on frugality, taking into account that a sedentary lifestyle imposes low energy needs.
Cooking methods : Spending time preparing food is essential in this diet, and it is advisable to use healthy cooking methods, whether grilled, baked, steamed or boiled.
Use seasonal foods : As far as possible, the Mediterranean Diet recommends using seasonal, fresh and little processed foods, since this way the nutrients and protective substances of the organism are preserved.
There are certain diets that are similar to the Mediterranean, especially because they are similar in terms of their benefits. It is about other ways of eating but they are equally healthy, such as the oriental diet that is characterized by being rich in the use of fish, vegetables, rice and soybeans.
There has also been a lot of talk about the Atlantic Diet with a similar base to the Mediterranean, despite the fact that the protagonist is fish as the main source of high-quality protein, in addition to the inclusion of seafood, beef and pork as well as vegetables. .
The Vegetarian Diet is another good example of similarity to the Mediterranean diet due to its contribution of vegetables, fresh fruits, legumes, whole grains and nuts. Within this type of diet there are variants with greater permissiveness in the consumption of eggs or dairy products ( ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet ), eliminating meat and fish that are not present in these diets.
Advantages and disadvantages of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO and is considered one of the best eating plans since it is a healthy and balanced eating plan.
The Mediterranean Diet has no contraindications and helps to prevent and improve certain diseases such as bad cholesterol or blood glucose, since it is a balanced plan with a lower proportion of meats and carbohydrates and in greater numbers the consumption of vegetables and monounsaturated fats is recommended.
Advantages of the Mediterranean Diet
The main advantages of the Mediterranean diet are:
- Helps slow aging and promotes longevity.
- Fight obesity by being recommended to lose weight in a healthy way.
- Increases good cholesterol preventing arteriosclerosis as it improves and increases HDL cholesterol.
- Helps protect against cardiovascular diseases by improving blood pressure.
- It reduces the symptoms of menopause.
Disadvantages of the Mediterranean Diet
Among the main disadvantages of the Mediterranean Diet are some that must be taken into account before starting to do it:
- Limited consumption of red meat: It is a diet in which the consumption of red meat is quite limited.
- Serving sizes: The quantity and portion sizes of meals are not clear.
- As the consumption of dairy is not very large, there can be a loss of calcium.
- It requires time: It is a diet that requires having enough time to prepare and cook the dishes
- Reduce olive oil and seasonings: If you want to lose weight with the Mediterranean diet, it will be necessary to reduce both the consumption of olive oil and seasonings, this will make the dishes less tasty.
- Low iron intake: The iron levels present in this diet are quite low and therefore it is necessary to consume a supplement that provides it.
Video of the Mediterranean Diet
Research by Professor Emilio Martinez de Victoria of the UGR, related to the effect of the Mediterranean Diet used in the treatment of certain diseases.
Before starting the Mediterranean Diet
Those who decide to start doing the Mediterranean Diet either to follow a healthier and more balanced eating plan or to lose weight and improve their health, it is advisable to always start with a plan that includes balanced menus according to the Pyramid indicated in this article. .
The right combination of different foods is essential to reach a balanced diet and really achieve a change in eating habits. And if you lead a sedentary life, it is essential to add daily physical activity to the plan according to physical condition, age and sex, avoiding fasting or including dietary supplements. In addition, it is essential before starting a diet to consult your doctor, especially if you want to lose weight healthily.
One week menu of the Mediterranean Diet
Here is an example of what it is like to eat for a week according to the Mediterranean diet.
Breakfast: Coffee with milk. Toast with chocolate to spread. Kiwi.
Mid-morning: Fruit yogurt. Cereal bar.
Food: Cold mashed potato cake with tomato slices. Baked tomato with zucchini and rosemary. Melon carpaccio with Porto sauce.
Snack: Infusion. Mini fuet sandwich.
Dinner: Goat cheese au gratin on roast vegetables, plums and olive leaves. Grilled lean beef steak with battered aubergines. Apricots
Breakfast: Coffee with milk. Tender cheese sandwich. Natural orange juice.
Food: Gazpacho with pieces of tomato, pepper, onion and fried bread. Broad beans stewed with squid. Grilled assorted fruit skewers with icing sugar.
Snack: Lemon granita.
Dinner: Slices of mozzarella and figs with mint. Vegetable ratatouille with poached eggs. Claudia type plums.
Breakfast: Milk. Toast with virgin olive oil.
Mid-morning: Coffee with milk. Mini vegetable sandwich.
Food: Creamy spinach. Tuna stew with peppers and tomato. Watermelon slices.
Snack: Toast with sardines. Natural pear juice.
Dinner: Couscous Salad. Stewed rabbit to the hunter. Plantain.
Breakfast: Tea with milk. Bread with honey. Natural watermelon juice.
Mid-morning: Coffee with milk. Cookies with raisins.
Lunch: Zucchini sliced salad with feta cheese and apple vinaigrette. Pork sirloin casserole with bakery potatoes. Avocado crushed with lemon and sugar.
Dinner: White asparagus with mayonnaise. Trout a la papillote with vegetables. Natural yogurt with pieces of red plum.
Breakfast: Milk. Whole grains with dehydrated fruit.
Mid-morning: cereal yogurt.
Food: Casserole noodles. Chicken in pepitoria. Pineapple slices with syrup.
Snack: Serrano ham sandwich.
Dinner: Almond soup. Julienne green bean scramble with bread sticks. Figs
Breakfast: Red fruit smoothie. Chocolate Neapolitan.
Mid-morning: Aperitif: assorted steamed mollusks.
Food: Lentil salad with peach pieces. Shells au gratin with a variety of fish (hake, monkfish, prawns, etc.). Paraguayan to wine.
Snack: Ice cream cup.
Dinner: Cucumber and mango salad with yogurt sauce. Homemade pizza 4 seasons. Baked apple.
Breakfast: Coffee with milk. Slices of watermelon, apple and kiwi. Toast with strawberry jam.
Mid-morning: Aperitif: varied canapés.
Food: Melon cream. Rice with egg and fried banana (Cuban rice) Lemon soup with mint ice cream.
Snack: Chocolate cake (Sacher).
Dinner: Tomato salad with tuna and sesame seeds. Roman hake with mixed salad. Natural yogurt with honey and pumpkin seeds.
Mediterranean Diet Recipes
There are countless recipes of the Mediterranean Diet, ideal to be part of the daily menu. Each of them requires not only having the ingredients but also the time necessary for their preparation.
However, there are also many recipes that are simple and quick to prepare and that can even be part of the menu of the Mediterranean Diet to lose weight , these are some of them:
This is an excellent recipe that allows you to have olives for the appetizer, being a dish rich in vitamin E, fat and fiber.
- Green olives
- Fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Glass container with airtight lid
Place the olives in water and leave them for a week, changing the water daily.
Prepare a brine following a ratio of, for example, 1 kg for every 10 liters of water. of salt.
Place the olives in glass jars with the brine and add the fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano. Close the jars and put the date of packaging.
Olives can be consumed after three months have elapsed after they have been packaged and their expiration date is one year.
Rich in fiber, pumpkin also contains vitamins of group B, carotenes and Vitamin E. It is an ingredient with a soft texture and sweet taste that allows you to prepare countless dishes, with healthy qualities for the skin, the cardiovascular system and the body’s defenses. .
- 1 whole pumpkin
- 1 onion
- Olive oil
- Fresh parsley
Wash the pumpkin, remove the skin and cut into medium dice.
Peel and cut the onions into rings.
Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt, over low heat for a few minutes until it turns golden brown.
Add the pumpkin to the cooked onion and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Add water to the preparation until the pumpkin is covered
Cook over medium heat with the saucepan covered and for about 50 minutes.
Once cooked, remove the pumpkin and process until creamy and add salt if necessary, adding a little more.
Serve the pumpkin cream in individual pots, decorating with the fresh parsley.
Tortillas in their different variants are part of the Mediterranean Diet since it allows you to take advantage of different seasonal foods such as asparagus, which as well as beets have rejuvenating properties favoring the skin since they contain folic acid and zinc.
- 500 grams asparagus
- 6 eggs
- Olive oil
Wash and clean asparagus well
Cut the asparagus into small pieces, discarding the part that is not tender
Putting oil in a frying pan
Beat the eggs and add salt to taste
Add the beaten eggs to the asparagus, mix and place in the pan with the hot oil.
Shake the pan to prevent the preparation from sticking.
Once the egg begins to set and has a golden hue, turn the omelette to finish cooking on the other side.
Remove and serve cut into portions as a starter.
These are extremely tasty and easy to prepare vegan burgers, being an ideal energy food to complete a menu that includes proteins, minerals and vitamins.
- Cooked chickpeas
- Chopped onion
- Cooked zucchini
- Carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
- Potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
- Spices to taste
- Olive oil
Sauté the onion and potatoes for 15 minutes, adding a little salt.
Add the zucchini and carrots to the previous preparation, cook until everything is tender, adding the spices last.
Process the chickpeas until obtaining a paste and add the previous preparation to them, re-processing everything until obtaining a homogeneous paste.
Make medium balls of pasta and if you want to add a little breadcrumbs to bind the mixture.
Form the hamburgers, coat in breadcrumbs and cook in a preheated oven dish with a little olive oil at the base of the dish.
Cooking is fast since all the ingredients are cooked.
These burgers can be frozen and baked anytime you want.
Serve the vegan burgers accompanied by a salad of green leaves, tomato and a little extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of lemon.
This dish can be part of a menu being completed not only with the salad of green leaves but also with a cream of vegetables or a portion of brown rice and for dessert a fresh seasonal fruit.
Sources and References:
- Nutrition Department. Pharmacy faculty. Complutense University of Madrid. 28040-Madrid (Spain).
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET AS A MODEL OF A PRUDENT AND HEALTHY DIET
- Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Rovira i Virgili University, Reus, Spain.
A healthy eating pattern: the traditional Mediterranean diet
- Spanish Journal of Cardiology
Mediterranean diet and prevention of cardiovascular disease