The Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
Why is the Mediterranean diet considered to be one of the healthiest ways of eating? Typically, the Mediterranean diet consists of lots of pulses, vegetables, fruits and wholegrain products. It also includes a lot of fish, dairy products and white meat. The combination of these ingredients with a healthy amount of natural olive oil which is a monounsaturated fat is what makes the ideal combination for a healthy diet.
Research has shown that meals eaten within these guidelines, reduce the risk of high blood pressure, raised cholesterol and diabetes. It has also been noted that people who follow the Mediterranean diet are less likely to put on weight and the health benefits ensure a long and healthy life. The health benefits are not derived from one specific ingredient, it is the combination of fresh seasonal foods with less meat and more fish, together with unprocessed ingredients that make the difference over time.
The Mediterranean diet is traditionally followed by all the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Cypriot cuisine follows this healthy diet with a twist of its own. Greek Cypriot cuisine has a slight influence from the Turkish cuisine because of its ties with this country, throughout history. The Mediterranean diet in general has been associated with good health for centuries and it is said that following this diet can lead to a 30% lower risk of having heart disease or stroke.
The main ingredients eaten throughout the day are:
- Seasonal fruits and Vegetables
- Lean proteins
- Unprocessed Dairy Products
- Beans or pulses
- Vegetable and Plant oils
- Whole grains
- Starchy carbohydrates
The idea is to get the balance right, with 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily and seafood as often as possible. The most important part of a true Mediterranean diet is to avoid red meat, processed foods and too many sugary desserts. A glass or two of red wine is considered to add to the benefits of a true Mediterranean diet. Daily physical activity is also part and parcel of this healthy way of life. Meal sharing can also have a real effect on your mood and enhance your appreciation of eating good healthy meals.
If you are considering changing your way of eating to a Mediterranean diet, consider that it is a lot cheaper than eating take out and processed foods. Typically meals made out of lentils or beans which is a great source of protein will cost you a lot less. A couple of glasses of red wine are also considered good for your health, having too much though, can have the opposite effect. Although the diet does allow pasta and grains, this is more of a side dish and eaten in moderation. The bulk of the meals served will consist of salads, vegetables and usually fish or small portions of meat.
This type of meal is more a way of life and is not strictly about the food you consume. Typically people who follow the Mediterranean diet also take time out of their busy days to share their meals with their families. There is no rush and they enjoy a leisurely taking the time, rather than a rushed meal in front of the TV. Another factor is that most people in these areas are very physically active which makes sitting down and enjoying a meal, even more important. Breakfast is considered to be a very important meal with fruit and whole grains eaten to give energy for the work day ahead.
Most homes in this region will have at least two days a week were they will eat a vegetarian meal. Some, like in Cyprus could follow this routine because of religious traditions, and others might do this for health or cost reasons. Using extra virgin oil, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados are part of the meatless meals and a great source of protein. The Mediterranean is also well known for its natural unprocessed cheese and yoghurt, and no meal is complete without a small serving of these delicious treats. Traditionally people of the Mediterranean also enjoy a lot of seasonal fruit for dessert and they avoid sugar filled sweets, which are only eaten on special occasions.
To outline the most important facts about a Mediterranean lifestyle, meals are a family and friends affair and leisurely meals are usually enjoyed with company. With all the delicious ingredients available that are fresh and seasonal, the people of the Mediterranean take full advantage of serving unprocessed fresh meals with the right balance of ingredients to give you a healthy and balanced meal. Cyprus is no exception, you can follow this diet easily if you are living on the island. There is always a plethora of fresh ingredients available, and all that is left to say is ‘Kali Orexi’ which means Bon Appetite!