The Mediterranean diet is a healthy and sustainable food model based on the consumption of ingredients produced in the countries of the Mediterranean area and combined according to traditional recipes, which differ depending on the season. These recipes are balanced and complete from a nutritional point of view, thanks to the combination of nutrients essential for our bodies’ well-being.

Thanks to its variety and balance, the Mediterranean diet is believed to prevent various diseases and disorders, so it is crucial to adhere to this type of diet from an early age to become a habit.

What Is the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet (MD) is a food model based on biodiversity and shared by countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Each country boasts different local dishes and culinary traditions, but they are united by dietary choices opposed to those typical of Northern Europe or North America.

The Mediterranean diet includes a wide variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits, grains and legumes, fish, eggs, meat, and precious extra virgin olive oil (EVO)

The richness of fresh foods makes it especially easy to come up with balanced dishes. 

Here is an example of a “Healthy Plate”: One half composed of raw and/or cooked vegetables, the other half divided equally by a protein source of animal or vegetable origin, and one of preferably whole grain carbohydrates. All seasoned with EVO. Then you might add herbs, which are abundant in the Mediterranean area, and possibly dried fruits and seeds.  

In general, when we talk about diet, we do not mean deprivation but healthy food choices that contribute to mental and physical well-being.

The Mediterranean diet ensures proper protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake. It also has a high dietary fiber intake and a low glycemic index. Around 55-60% of the Mediterranean diet involves the consumption of carbohydrates in the form of grains, preferably whole grains, 10-15% protein (60% of animal and 40% of vegetable origin), and only 10% of this diet is represented by simple sugars (excluding fruit). Therefore, it is suitable for any regimen, whether regular, low-calorie, or high-calorie.

The Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a vital prevention factor for certain chronic-degenerative diseases that have increased in recent years, such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular and osteoarticular diseases, or cancer. The increased occurrence of these disorders is partly due to adopting eating habits different from the traditional Mediterranean ones. 

The hectic lifestyle that permeates our society and our work rhythms often forces us to consume pre-packaged foods and/or to rely on restaurants, bars, and fast foods more than we should. In addition, the increased availability of foods outside the traditional model can sometimes result in nutritional imbalances. 

The benefits of the MD are mainly due to some of its components, such as monounsaturated fatty acids (particularly oleic acid from olive oil), dietary fiber from vegetables, fruits and legumes, and antioxidants that give fruits their color, vegetables and red wine (such as bioflavonoids). 

Last but not least, the gratification of the palate also makes the Mediterranean diet a valuable ally. The Mediterranean diet, being able to draw on a wide variety of foods, helps to prepare, even quickly, many ever-changing and colorful dishes in all seasons without boredom taking over. 

Seasonality and Sustainability: Why They Are Important

Choosing to buy fruits and vegetables in season has several advantages. It ensures food biodiversity, essential for our bodies to stay healthy. Vegetables and fruits consumed in their natural ripening period contain their maximum content of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; thus, these products will also be tastier, more colorful, and fragrant. 

Lastly, the seasonal product often comes at a lower price.

Besides being an advantage for us, seasonality also respects the environment, ensuring crop rotation and the production of different vegetables in each area, considering the biodiversity of the territories. Respecting seasonality is a crucial element of our food choices that, if possible, should never be given up. 

As already said, an essential part of the Mediterranean diet is represented by grains, legumes, and vegetables, which, compared to foods of animal origin, require less natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Lower environmental impact is also due to the portion sizes of the Mediterranean tradition, which tend to be moderate, and the consumption of many fresh and unprocessed foods – or at least with limited processing.