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Change Your Diet, and Eat the Mediterranean Way

Are you studying the principals behind a better diet? Mediterranean food diets are increasing in popularity because they are not based on popularized fads but rather a model which comes from literally thousands of years of use. The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of the Mediterranean area, particularly Italy, Greece, and Spain. Understanding how the Mediterranean Diet differs from the typical American diet can help us to improve our eating habits and enjoy improved health through enjoyable dietary changes.

The most noticeable characteristic of the Mediterranean Diet is high consumption of fruits and vegetables, bread and other cereals, olive oil and fish. Red meat is an infrequent source of protein in the Mediterranean Diet. Compared to the typical American diet, this may seem almost exotic. Meals fashioned after the Mediterranean Diet have a distinctively rich flavor because of the common use of olive oil as the source of fat in preparation compared to the margarine and highly processed, hydrogenated vegetable oils used in the preparation of American meals. As fat has a higher calorie density than protein and carbohydrates, portion sizes also appear more modest when compared to the size of a meal Americans often expect to receive from a restaurant. The result is a nutrient rich diet, high in fiber, with a low glycemic index, which includes lean protein sources and high quality sources of fat.

While the Mediterranean Diet has been developed over time since as far back as when the Iliad was a new story, it was “discovered” by an American doctor, Ancel Keys, in 1945. When compared to modern common American dietary practices, the Mediterranean Diet appears to be paradoxical. People living in Mediterranean countries tend to consume relatively high amounts of fat, and yet they have far lower rates of cardiovascular disease than in countries like the United States.

If we compare the sources of fat between the Mediterranean Diet and the typical American diet we can see that the fat sources in the Mediterranean Diet are of much higher quality and fat sources like extra virgin olive oil also contain excellent sources of antioxidants which have been shown to protect the body from conditions that lead to cardiovascular disease. Olive oil has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol while the animal fats consumed by the typical American tend to increase cholesterol levels.

Red wine consumption is also a positive factor in many Mediterranean Diets. Rich in flavonoids, these powerful antioxidants come from the skins, seeds and stems of grapes which are what make a red wine red during fermentation. White wines are fermented without these components and therefore have lower levels of antioxidants. Regular, moderate consumption of red wine has been shown to have significant benefit in cardiovascular health because of the regular ingestion of these antioxidants.

Genetics, lifestyle, and environment may also be involved in the health benefits enjoyed by people of these Mediterranean cultures, but when compared to the typical diet of an American, the Mediterranean Diet offers a higher quality source of foods which should bring a benefit in a variety of health factors for nearly anyone who includes them as their source of nourishment.

Dave Saunders is a professional lecturer, and certified nutritional educator. He enjoys creating interconnections through his writings and lectures to help others create context and see new discoveries and technologies in more a practical light. You can find out more about new discoveries in health and nutrition at