The Mediterranean Diet is the one to follow according to the American Heart Association, The Mayo clinic and just about every other health association. Lucky for those of us who love Italian food since the diet Italians follow falls into that category.
The Mediterranean diet does not follow the American Heart Association exactly, there is too much fat. The good news is that it is low in saturated fat with most of the fat calories coming from olive oil. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat which does not raise blood cholesterol levels in the same way saturated fat does. Olive oil is so flavorful that a little bit goes a long way so you don’t need to use much. Ever mixed a little olive oil and a little lemon juice and put it on a fresh salad? It is delicious.
Of course diet alone does not keep the Mediterranean’s healthy, their lifestyle is a big help. People in Europe walk everywhere and that has to help.
According to the American Heart Association a Mediterranean diet has the following characteristics:
• High consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds
• Olive oil is an important monounsaturated fat source
• Dairy products, fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts, and little red meat is eaten
• Eggs are consumed zero to four times a week
• Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts (Hmmmmm, now just what do they consider moderate?)
The other thing to consider is portion size. Ever ordered a plate of pasta in Italy? It is about a third of the size of the one you would get in the US.
The main reason I think the Mediterranean diet works is that it allows you to eat food that tastes good. So is it their diet or lifestyle or some other factor that keeps people living near the Mediterranean healthy? Who knows….but their diet has to be better for you than a Big Mac and fries.