Here's an easy DIY for going Mediterranean. The protocol is simple and soon registers as habits.
However, I don't consider lamb to be a true 'red' meat (as listed here) because it's nutritional profile is very different from pork and beef. See HERE.
Also of note is that under Traditional Greek Orthodox guidelines Fish (meaning fish with backbones) may be proscribed on fast days but shellfish (and octopus) are permitted. If you are like me and LOVE mussels -- well you ask, 'what fast?'
The olive oil thing is a slurp and gurgle heavy handed approach. None of this 1x tablespoon malarkey. We're talking proportions of a cup.
As my other resources suggest, another entrez is to make a pot of bean soup every week. like the recipe for Fasolada I shared.
I also make my Spanakorizo with Warrigal Greens. Just right.
The Mediterranean diet has been studied for over 60-70 years now. Starting with the Seven Countries study and continuing from there with several large observational studies, research repeatedly has shown that compliance to the Mediterranean diet appears to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions
The diet was initially based on the traditional diet of Greece (particularly Crete) and Southern Italy circa 1960’s. While it can never be exactly replicated, you can follow a Mediterranean diet wherever you are.
Not Sure Where to Start?
No worries! We have you covered, here are few ways to get there. You can start with one of these and try it out for a week or so and then add the next.
5 Easy Ways to Transition to a Mediterranean Diet
1. Switch to olive oil and do not skimp on it.
Trying to follow a Mediterranean diet using very little olive oil defeats the purpose. Olive oil is the basis of the diet and many of the benefits appear to come from the good monounsaturated fats but also the polyphenols in the olive oil. However to get the benefits, you must replace other fats with olive oil, making it your type of fat in the diet. In addition olive oil is what helps with such a high consumption of vegetables. Greeks consume many vegetables and one of reasons for this is because they cook them with olive oil which makes it easier to eat large amounts.
2. Eat vegetables as a main course.
The high consumption of vegetables is a main characteristic of the Mediterranean diet. Greeks consume almost a pound of vegetables a day. In order for this to be accomplished vegetables such as green beans, peas, eggplant, artichoke, and okra are cooked in olive oil, tomato and herbs and accompanied with bread and feta cheese. A dish of these vegetables can provide 3 servings of vegetables.
3. Learn to cook a few basic Mediterranean meals.
The Mediterranean diet is about real food. That does not mean one has to cook from scratch everyday but learning 2-3 basic dishes will greatly improve your diet. Here are my 3 suggestions:
4. Go vegan one or two days a week.
When we look at the traditional Greek diet, the Greeks abstained from animal products about 200 days a year for religious reasons. This most likely played an important role in the health benefits that were seen in that population. Check out the guidelines HERE
5. Stop adding meat to everything.
I often see in recommendations for healthy eating plenty of vegetable dishes but also quite a bit of meat. We do not need that much meat (even if it is lean), and studies have shown that reducing meat is correlated with better health. Try the following guidelines: red meat once a week, chicken once a week and fish once a week.
FROM THE ALWAYS USEFUL, OLIVE TOMATO:LINK
Thank You Dave, especially for the recognition of the Olive Oil, I use it more than any other, much more. I too feel that we as a nation eat far to much red meat and not enough seafood. You have spurred me along to think more about what, when and how much we eat. Thanks again for sharing.
Good info, Dave! I reckon too that hard work in the outdoors plays a part. A lot of Mediterranean people live on farms and work a lot harder physically than we do.
..and the wine. Don't forget the wine.
Groan. As an ex-Wine Club member and ex-Winemaster at Tastings, I grieve for the happy daze of yore when getting a bit pissed was a fairly common occurrence :-( I've lost my taste for those heavy tannin-rich reds I quaffed with such gay abandon. Bullet-proof when young, pay for it when old :-\
Professor Itsiopoulos, also an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, has developed "10 commandments" of the Mediterranean diet which can help you get a handle on what it involves.
The commandments are:
- Use extra virgin olive oil as the main added fat (aim for around 60 mls /day)
- Eat vegetables with every meal (include 100g leafy greens and 100g tomatoes, and 200g other vegetables/day)
- Include at least two legumes meals (250g serve) per week
- Eat at least two servings of fish (150-200g serves) per week and include oily fish: for example Atlantic and Australian salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, gemfish, canned sardines, and canned salmon. Canned tuna is not as high in the important fish oil omega-3, but still a good choice to include in your fish serves
- Eat smaller portions of meat (beef, lamb, pork and chicken) and less often (no more than once or twice a week)
- Eat fresh fruit every day and dried fruit and nuts as snacks or dessert
- Eat yoghurt every day (about 200g) and cheese in moderation (about 30 to 40 grams per day)
- Include wholegrain breads and cereals with meals (aim for 3-4 slices of bread per day)
- Consume wine in moderation (one standard drink a day, which is about 100 mls), always with meals and don't get drunk. Try and have a couple of alcohol-free days a week
- Have sweets or sweet drinks for special occasions only
She says these commandments can also be used to apply the health-giving principles of the Mediterranean diet to other kinds of cuisine. As well as researching the diet, she has also written a cookbook based on the exact meals she has used in her research (LINK)
It's worth noting that the Mediterranean diet generally refers to the foods of Southern Italy , France, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, and Croatia. Although there is some debate about Portuguese cuisine.
The 'Middle Eastern Diet ' refers to the cuisine of the various countries and peoples of the Middle East. The cuisine of the region is diverse while having a degree of homogeneity. It includes Arab cuisine, Iranian\Persian cuisine, Israeli cuisine/Jewish cuisine, Assyrian cuisine, Armenian cuisine, Kurdish cuisine, Greek cuisine/Cypriot cuisine, and Turkish cuisine.
While there are certainly similarities, the culinary traditions of the Middle East—from Egypt in the west and Turkey in the north to Iran in the east and Yemen in the south—embody tastes and textures different from those of the Mediterranean foods of Europe and North Africa. In some ways, identifying Middle Eastern cuisine as Mediterranean is similar to lumping the wide array of Asian cuisine under the Chinese banner, or various Latino foods as Mexican.,,,“We see cumin, turmeric, anise, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom—warm, earthy flavors,” says Kimberly Cornelius, a food technologist with seasoning company Wixon. That differs from the sweet, aromatic spices of the Mediterranean, she adds, and creates a more pungent flavor that is also comforting but not necessarily hot. Some spice-herb combinations, such as za’atar, a condiment made largely from dried thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac, are favored across the region. Thyme and parsley are particularly popular herbs.LINK.
That said there is some debate over what constitutes 'Mediterranean' foods.
...ask anybody what the Mediterranean diet actually is and few will give you the same answer. It is not a weight-loss regime such as the Atkins or Dukan diets. It is actually not a prescriptive diet at all, rather a pattern of eating. In spite of the name, it has less and less in common with the way that many people in southern Europe live and eat today....The Mediterranean diet is based on a rural life where people ate what they grew, which is fast disappearing. The UN has recognised the diet as an endangered species....
Even health experts and nutritionists differ on the detail of the Mediterranean diet, but the principles are fairly clear. It is about an eating style based on large amounts of fruit and vegetables, legumes such as beans, lentils, peas and peanuts, whole grains and especially olive oil.
Fish and seafood are part of it, but their consumption varied in the past according to how close people lived to the sea. Chicken, eggs and small amounts of dairy, such as cheese and yoghurt, are there in moderation, but red meat and sweets would rarely be consumed. The diet includes a small amount of wine with meals. Pasta, bread and potatoes are variables from one region to another. It is quite a high-carbohydrate diet, which was fine when people were physically active on farms or fishing boats.
Nonetheless, Sanders says northern Europe is generally healthier than the Mediterranean regions. Things have changed.
“That sort of diet was accompanied by quite a lot of physical activity. There were moderate intakes of wine, but it wasn’t huge: it was about 300ml or 400ml at most a day. And these guys, particularly in Crete, which was looked at, were pretty active and were quite thin.
“If you look at a follow-up of their kids, the second generation in the Seven Countries Study, they tend to be overweight and eating something quite different – a lot more deep fried food. The equivalent of Colonel Sanders really. And what you are seeing in southern Europe, Greece, is one of the highest increases in rates of cardiovascular disease, so there’s been a switchover.
“If we look at life expectancy, I think it’s longest in Iceland. Whereas southern European countries, they still have a lot of poverty and they’re not doing so well. And they’re becoming more sedentary.” LINK
Yes, lack of regular physical activity is the root of a lot of problems. The 'diets' or 'eating plans' are still good but in themselves are not a prescription for healthy living or magic wand without proper exercise.
When you consider the topography of the Greek Islands -- getting anywhere local is sure to take a bit of effort.
However 'proper exercise' is a slippery customer in this age of physiological science. How much? What kind? Judged so?
I adhere to the perspective that a good walk -- or cycle -- is kosher but the rest of the time should be ruled by 'activity' -- physical activity.
If you strap a step monitor to your bod you soon get a good idea about how active you may or may not be on a daily basis.
Best coach in the business...and much cheaper than a gym.
Indeed, what the step counter will tell you is that gardening is very much to your credit.
Much of the literature on gardening as exercise is pretty shallow, I reckon. But gardening as activity is something else. Being busy and being upright and moving is what the garden demands. There's lifting, crouching, kneeling, crawling, pulling... and sweating.
I am blessed that I can easily leave the garden to lay down or go online for recovery moments before tackling the outback again.
In and out. Bursts of toil followed by a rallying of the ole bod.
And that's the other connection to Mediterranean 'health': that you grow your own fresh stuff means you must labor for your meals. In that sense, that's why I love annuals: they demand so much effort of you.
The menu is constantly changing with the seasons and each mouthful is one not only of luv but of congealed effort.
What that means is that PHYSICAL ACTIVITY is not the same as EXERCISE. Physical activity is a 24 hour thing whereas exercise is a conscious allocation of a set time period to concentrated exertion.
If you embrace High Intensity Interval Training(HIIT) the logic is clear...but that's not gardening.
read all this useful info on diet exercise - grow fresh eat fresh grow and work for production =all great philosophies and definitely what we try to achieve in our 95% eat what you grow regime here and definitely follow most f the Mediterranean diet but what about the debate about the efficacy of heating olive oil - so much about its okay if you dont heat too much too hot vs never do it ! anyone ever had the definitive answer?
Doubt there'd be a definitive answer! There almost never is! I'm interested to know what's out there. Usually I use Olive Oil cold but do cook with it mixed with butter at times. Some foods need a smoking oil to not have the oil soak into the foods and that's where I gather the problems arise. I've been using imported grape seed oil lately for what little shallow frying I do and for some items, it does need to be smoking.