There’s platefuls of research into the (many) benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, by institutions all over the globe. Every year, a panel of leading nutritionists and health experts get together to decide which diet is the world’s best. For five years running, that top spot has been handed to the Mediterranean Diet. Although it varies a little, the UK government’s Eatwell Guide is also based on it. So is the Mediterranean Diet the best in the world? Sí. Ναί. Oui. Sì. Evet. Yes!
Research into the Mediterranean Diet has been carried out from the 1950s onwards. The ‘Seven Countries Study’ investigated links between diet and lifestyle, and heart health. Ancel Keys, who launched the study, went on to follow a Mediterranean Diet – and lived till 100 years old. So whilst other food fads have come and gone, it’s seen us through The Beatles to Blondie, The Spice Girls to Stormzy.
So what exactly is the Mediterranean Diet? Well, it’s not really a diet in the way we’ve come to think of dieting. It’s as much about a healthy approach to food as it is about healthy food. To follow a Mediterranean Diet, you want to create a balance of fresh fruit and veg, pulses and beans, starchy carbohydrates, fish, nuts and seeds. Healthy fats make a big difference too, like those found in olives and olives oil.
Switching to a new diet can feel overwhelming. Yet for most of us, following the Mediterranean Diet’s more about making small changes. Things like cutting back on red meat and eating more fish, replacing refined sugar snacks with a handful of nuts or olives, switching from butter to olive oil spreads. You’ll find loads of tasty recipes and ideas online too.
One of the questions that often comes up is what to eat for breakfast on a Mediterranean Diet? It’s generally something savoury, light and satisfying. Hummus on wholemeal toast, eggs with avocado or spinach, Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of seeds. Get creative – just think fresh and tasty.
There’s stacks of research suggesting that the Mediterranean Diet is good for your heart health. There’s no clear answer as to whether it’s specific foods or the diet and lifestyle all combined that makes the difference. But expert Victoria Taylor, British Heart Foundation dietitian, says, ‘if you adjust your whole diet so that you eat less meat and more fish, replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils, and eat more fruit and vegetables, then that could make a significant difference.’
And it’s not just your heart that’s happy with the Mediterranean Diet. There are studies showing it can also reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Some people say it even leads to a longer life. The fact it can easily incorporate a vegetarian or vegan diet, and be keto or gluten-free, means it easily works for everyone too.
The Mediterranean Diet was promoting plant-based eating before it was even a thing! It reduces consumption of red meat and dairy, which we now know is better for the environment. Fish is a popular part of the diet, so if you do enjoy seafood, look for sustainable sources. Shopping locally for seasonal fruits and veg is another way the Mediterranean Diet can be positive for the planet, as well as your health.
One of the best things about the Mediterranean Diet is not just what you eat, but how you eat. Sharing food is a part of the culture. Taking time to sit together, laugh together, and eat together is really important. That more relaxed way of eating has got to be good for your body, and sharing good times sounds great for our mental health too.
Want to know which is the best Mediterranean cookbook? Impossible! There are so many great titles to choose from. For books full of quick and easy ideas, try Ainsley Harriott’s Mediterranean Cookbook or Easy Mediterranean by Sue Quinn. You can pick from books that focus on specific regions, such as Claudia Roden’s The food of Spain or Taverna by Georgina Hayden’s, taking in her Greek-Cypriot roots. Or opt for something food-specific, like Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, which only has vegetarian Mediterranean recipes or the Easy Olive Cookbook, featuring 50 recipes all based around olives!
Olives are an unmissable part of the Mediterranean Diet, whether in olive oil, as a snack, or as part of a recipe. Some people claim not to like olives, but it’s often that they just haven’t found the right one yet! It’s not a simple choice between black or green. As well as our plump Hojiblanca Stoneless Olives from Spain, our Greek Kalamata and Beldi olives offer a totally different taste experience. Then there’s the matter of fillings and marinades. Our Manzanilla Olives come filled with everything from Lemon to Chorizo, plus our handy Ready To Eat packs are marinated in delights such as Garlic & Thyme and Sundried Tomato. Many people in the Mediterranean marinade their own. It’s really easy to do, and means you get a taste explosion of all your favourite flavours.
So there you have it. 11 reasons to love the Mediterranean Diet – although you can probably think of 100 more!
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