The Mediterranean diet aims to extend life expectancy by protecting against cardiovascular diseases as well as cancer risks.
It is directly inspired by the eating habits that the populations of the Mediterranean rim had traditionally.
It promotes the consumption of plants, quality fats and whole grains. On the contrary, red meat, sugar and industrial products have a very limited place.
Characteristics of the Mediterranean diet:
•Protector against cardiovascular disease and certain cancers
•Based on a predominantly vegetable diet
•Rich in quality unsaturated fats
•Exceptional intake of fibre, antioxidants and vitamins
•Weight loss is not a priority
The main principles of the regime
It is a scientific study by Ancel Keys in the 1950s that highlighted the higher life expectancy of the populations of Crete and Corfu despite a rudimentary health system.
In the 90s, the “French paradox” of Dr Serge Renaud also highlighted the link between the Mediterranean diet and low rate of recurrence of cardiovascular diseases.
How does the Mediterranean diet work?
The frequencies of consumption of fatty, sweet and processed foods being low, however, this often leads to weight loss.
How does the Mediterranean diet lead to weight loss?
With an interesting content of monounsaturated fatty acids (from olive oil) and a small amount of saturated fatty acids (fatty meat), the Mediterranean diet helps reduce cholesterol levels as well as atherosclerosis.
Also, fruits and vegetables, as well as red wine containing tannins, are believed to provide an excellent source of antioxidants that help protect against diseases associated with ageing.
However, these effects are seen in people with regular physical activity, so it is essential to combine this diet with an active lifestyle to see the benefits.
The primary goal of this diet is not weight loss. However, by adopting a healthy diet free from sugary, industrial products or containing bad fats, it is natural to see weight loss in the first few weeks. All the more so if the food was previously anarchic and unbalanced.
How long does the Mediterranean diet last?
The Mediterranean diet is not for a limited period. The health benefits, and in particular the prevention of cardiovascular disease, are observed in the long term. Rather, it is a way of life that we should be inspired by every day to make better food choices.
Foods allowed in the Cretan diet and frequency of consumption
Here are the different food categories and their frequency of consumption in the Mediterranean diet:
•The abundance of whole-grain products
•The abundance of fruits and vegetables
•Plenty of garlic, onion, spices and herbs
•Use of olive and rapeseed oil as a fatty substance
•Daily consumption of legumes, nuts and seeds
•Daily consumption of yoghurt and sheep cheese (but no milk)
•Daily, but moderate, consumption of red wine (12 cal/day)
•Large consumption of fish (several times a week)
•Limited consumption of chicken and eggs (a few times a week)
•Limited consumption of sugary foods (a few times a week)
•Very limited consumption of red meat (a few times a month)
•Reasonable daily calorie intake (1,800 to 2,500 calories per day depending on physical activity)
Mediterranean diet: recipes and typical menu
•Wholemeal bread and olive oil
•Yoghurt made from sheep’s milk with honey and almonds
•Tomatoes in olive oil, garlic and basil
•Wild rice with vegetables
•Chickpeas with coriander
•Fruit salad with cinnamon
•Grilled peppers in olive oil
•1 glass of red wine
Advantages of the Mediterranean diet
•Excellent supply of quality fatty acids
•Rich in micronutrients, antioxidants and dietary fibres
•Protection against cellular ageing and cardiovascular disease
•No frustration or monotony
•Easy to follow
•Compatible with an active social life
•Satiety provided by fibre and vegetable proteins
Disadvantages of the Mediterranean diet
•A decrease in food quality (heavy metals in fish, pesticides, etc.)
•Requires an effort of cultural adaptation
•May be hard to follow for heavy red meat eaters
•Requires a little cooking
Are there any risks?
As soon as the Mediterranean diet is adapted to the body’s needs, then there is no risk in following it. It is, on the contrary, a varied and balanced diet, rich in micro and macronutrients of very high quality.
Is this a diet for you?
Yes, if you want to take care of your cardiovascular system and age in good health. It is all the more indicated if you suffer from lipid balance disorders (hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, etc.), from a metabolic syndrome or a history of cardiovascular pathologies.
If you are overweight, the Mediterranean diet can also be a great way to achieve a healthy weight. If you are already in good health, the Cretan diet will allow you to maintain this optimal state of health for as long as possible.
Is it a diet compatible with sport?
Physical activity is one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet. By studying the populations of the Mediterranean rim, A.
Keys realized that gentle physical activity in the open air was an integral part of everyday life. To optimize the effects of the Mediterranean diet, it is therefore recommended to practice 30 minutes of activity per day: walking, hiking, cycling, running, swimming, dancing, etc.
How not to gain weight?
The Mediterranean diet is neither low calorie nor restrictive, there is no reason to gain weight. Moreover, it is a way of life that is supposed to be adopted in the very long term. As long as good habits are maintained, nothing can justify weight gain.
The opinion of the dietician on the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is a great source of inspiration for healthy eating daily without giving in to the call of restrictive diets.
It gives guidelines for a balanced diet and is very easy to follow for people used to cooking and who like the flavours of southern cuisine.
It helps both to preserve the cardiovascular system and to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. I can only recommend following the main principles of the Cretan diet daily, to be and stay in full health.