Monday, July 19, 2010

Mediterranean Diet: Combining Great Foods With Health

Mediterranean Diet: most people believe that good food and healthy food are antithetic. As a matter of fact, this is true for most diets based on the traditional food pyramid, for low fat diets, low card diets, and the hundreds of fad diets that have come up in the last 20 years. It is not true, however, for the most prominent diet in scientific and medical research since 1993.

Based on deep research showing unusually good health for populations around the Mediterranean still using traditional diets, the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced, in 1993, a new breakthrough diet and food pyramid, the Mediterranean diet. Since that time, the Mediterranean diet, recommended by many prominent institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, the  Harvard School of Public Health, the Cleveland Clinic or the Women's Heart Foundation,  has figured prominently in multiple scientific studies showing significantly reduced risks in overall health, cardio-vascular and cancer mortality, and incidence of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. New studies have appeared every few months outlining its benefits in multiple areas from ocular health to poor genetics, Alzheimer's, brain health or metabolic syndrome.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high amounts of fresh produce, the general use of olive oil, lower red meat and dairy intake, frequent use of nuts, wine, and fish-based recipes, and the replacement of most refined carbohydrates by whole grain products. But - what we like most about the Mediterranean diet is that it is phenomenally good. The cuisine from Southern France, and many others from around the Mediterranean, have been true stars of gastronomy in the past 30 years, particularly outlined by food greats such as Paula Wolfert or Michel Biehn. Mediterranean inspired recipes can be truly outstanding, and combine an remarkable variety of ingredients with an equal diversity of recipes from multiple countries and environments.

Martha Rose Shulman, a well known food writer, has written extensively in the past 25 years on the topic of Mediterranean foods and cuisines. Her blog on the New York Times, Recipes for Health, is an excellent example of how tasty can mean the same as healthy when talking about food. She has published so far about 300 recipes, most of which are both Mediterranean inspired and delicious. This is a blog worth reading, or at least bookmarking, if you are interested in both long life and cooking:-)

Martha Rose Shulman's Recipes for Health in the New York Times


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article. I wonder why fish is so high on the pyramid, upon cheese ??


Meg DeJong said...

Hi Laura- thanks for your comment!! The Mediterranean food diet does not use a lot of dairy products, except for yogurt. In fact, because cheese has a lot of saturated fat, it has a negative impact on health compared to fish. Fish are typically much leaner, but, when they are not, they carry these "good" fats, rich in omega-3 acids, which decrease your bad cholesterol and increase you good cholesterol. Either way, they are a winner! And there are many, many recipes in Mediterranean cuisines that are really savory and focus on fish:-) For instance, two of Martha Rose Shulman's fish recipes that I really like are Sardines and Coleslaw Po'Boy and Easy Mediterranean Fish Stew: really tasty, ingredients that are easy to find, and simple to cook. The Po'Boy actually has yogurt in the recipe. Let us know what you think!

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