Breaking Down the Mediterranean Diet

Staff Writer
Since May is National Mediterranean Diet month, Chef Steve provides a guide for the diet's key points plus a delicious recipe
Med Diet
2009 Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust

Med Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is based on the traditional food of the warm and sunny countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is a delicious way to incorporate healthful elements of these cultures into your pantry, stovetop, and dinner table. Easy to prepare and enjoy with family and friends, this diet features plentiful fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes; an abundance of bread, pasta, rice, couscous, and other grain foods, especially whole grains; nuts and peanuts; olive oil; fish, poultry, and lean red meat; cheese and yogurt; and moderate amounts of wine.

Aside from simple recipes, bold flavors, and meals which can often be assembled in minutes, the Med Diet is scientifically proven to reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases and to boost your brainpower. Here are the main tenants of the Med Diet (click on photo to the right to see pyramid):

Grains, vegetables, and fruits should be eaten at most meals, because they are important sources of vitamins, minerals, energy, antioxidants, and fiber.

Olives and olive oil are central to the Mediterranean Diet. Olives are universally eaten whole, and widely used for cooking and flavoring in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Olive oil is the principal source of dietary fat used for cooking, baking, and for dressing salads and vegetables.

Nuts, beans, legumes, and seeds are good sources of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They add flavor and texture to Mediterranean dishes.

Herbs and spices add flavors and aromas to foods, reducing the need to add salt or fat when cooking. They are also rich in a broad range of health-promoting antioxidants and are used liberally in Mediterranean cuisines. Herbs and spices also contribute to the national identities of the various Mediterranean cuisines.

Cheese and yogurt are eaten regularly in the traditional Mediterranean diet, but in low to moderate amounts. The calcium in cheese and yogurt is important for bone and heart health.

Fish and shellfish are important sources of healthy protein for Mediterranean populations. Fish such as tuna, herring, sardines, salmon, and bream are rich in essential heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.