The term Mediterranean diet was devised by physiologist Ansel Keys (1904 – 2004) to describe the traditional food model of the peoples of the olive oil producing countries included in the dietary habits of 13,000 inhabitants of seven countries (Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, USA, Japan, the Netherlands and Finland). The above research, which began in the early 1960s, aimed to investigate the previously unclear relationship between diet and the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.
The findings of this study, which lasted for 30 years, showed the significant health benefits of using the Mediterranean diet model (the Cretans who participated in the study had the lowest mortality rate from cardiovascular disease and cancer as well and the highest average life, attributes attributable to their characteristic eating habits).
From studies to date, the use of Mediterranean diet has also been associated with a reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes, a reduction in the incidence of strokes and the incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
It is also noted that in 2010, UNESCO included the Mediterranean Diet in the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Characteristics of the Mediterranean diet
At the International Conference on “Mediterranean Diet” in 1993, the special characteristics of the traditional Mediterranean diet were codified.
Use of olive oil as the main source of fat (containing monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants) and at the same time avoiding the consumption of animal fats.
Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables (diet rich in fiber and a good source of antioxidants and many vitamins that act against cardiovascular diseases and various forms of cancer)
Daily consumption of rough processed cereals and their products such as bread, whole meal pasta, unrefined rice, etc. which provide energy, are low in fat and help in good bowel function.
Daily consumption of dairy products (milk, yogurt and cheese) in small to moderate amounts (good source of calcium) and preferably low fat.
Pulses, potatoes and nuts (consumption on a weekly basis)
Consumption on a weekly basis in small to moderate amounts of fish (reduce the risk of coronary artery disease due to omega-3 fatty acids) and poultry (they provide high nutritional value as well as iron).
Sweets are consumed in moderation, and sometimes the position of sugar gets honey.
Little consumption of red meat (on a monthly basis and in small quantities)
Wine consumption on a daily basis but in moderation
Minimum consumption of processed food (some very little processed – mainly seasonal – food)
The above is also reflected in the “Food Pyramid” of the Mediterranean Diet, created in 1995 by a team of scientists from Harvard University. At the base of the pyramid are the foods to be consumed daily and in significant quantities, while at the top of the pyramid are those that are to be consumed rarely and in small quantities.