In my last blog, I talked about how adopting the Mediterranean diet can help to prevent degenerative brain problems like Alzheimer’s, however there are many more health benefits to following this diet. By Mediterranean, this can be Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The one thing that all these countries favour is the use of fresh, seasonal and local foods. The health benefits include; a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular and heart problems, obesity, diabetes and longevity. It fact its less of an actual diet than a lifestyle, but the basics are: a high intake of fresh fruit and vegetables with nuts, legumes, cereals, olive oil, fish and poultry, A low intake of dairy, mainly yoghurt and a low intake of red meat, processed meats and sugar, Red wine is consumed in a low quality and often mixed or drunk with water.(Flavonoids and antioxidants in red wine can reduce heart disease )
Although fast foods have spread worldwide, McDonalds has a lot to answer for, in the main many aspects of the traditional diet are followed. Sardina, in Italy, has the oldest European population. Many vegetables like Tomatoes and Red Peppers sum up this diet to us, these also have beta-carotene, antioxidants that convert to Vitamin A, which helps to fight against free radicals, which benefits skin, eye health and general wellness. Combining these foods with olive oil, nuts and seeds can help the absorption. Oily fish, sardines and shellfish can help you to keep sprightly.
You only need to shop on market day to see the wonderful variety of fruit and vegetables sold; Tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplants, leafy greens, carrots, courgettes, melons, apples, peaches, cherries, oranges, lemons and apricots alongside spice stalls and an array of olives, to understand the love of food and cooking is very much from the heart. (In my travel blog, I have given local recipes which I have very much enjoyed eating)
A diet low in saturated fats and high in mono-unsaturated fats helps to avoid high cholesterol and heart problems. Unsaturated fats are olive oil, avocados, almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds. Saturated fats are in most junk foods and processed meals. Avoiding or reducing the use of butter, fatty meats, cream, biscuits, cakes, ice-cream and chocolate helps lower the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
Scientists feel that the most damaging aspect of the western diet is too much Omega 6 is consumed and too little Omega 3. So, having a healthier balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids is linked to preventing degenerative brain problems and heart disease. Omega 3 is in salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, eggs and flaxseeds, whilst Omega 6 is in soy beans, corn, meat, poultry, fish and processed cooking oils. Once again highlighting the improved diet of Mediterranean countries. Eating seafood once or twice a week would help to give a better balance, as well as replacing meat a couple of times a week.
Legumes like beans, chickpeas and lentils are key ingredient in many stews and this are been used more now in the UK often to replace a meat-based meal.
Cakes, biscuits and sugary desserts feature much less in a Mediterranean diet with natural sugar from fruit and honey used more than adding sugar. Its much more of an occasional treat rather than an everyday food.
I thank that food is seen as much more, living to eat rather than eating to live.
Striving to live with nature and the land and sharing this with loved ones, eating together as a family is a strong part of a culture which has been the same for many years and I do hope continues to be for many more years.