Foods of the Mediterranean Diet

    Foods of the Mediterranean Diet

    After discussing HOW IT WAS BORN and WHAT are the HEALTH BENEFITS of the Mediterranean Diet, today we will focus on the FOODS that MAKE it up and their specific functions.

    To make a brief summary of what is mentioned in the two previous videos, we remind you that:

    • The Mediterranean Diet is the typical diet of the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea basin.
    • It is natural, poor, inexpensive and protective from diseases of well-being.
    • It was used in clinical nutrition already in the first half of the 900th century by Piroddi, a doctor from your country, and later, thanks to the American researcher Keys, it was still studied, tested and disseminated.
    • In 1990 the first FOOD PYRAMID of the Mediterranean Diet was proposed and 10 years later it was integrated by UNESCO among the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity".
    The Mediterranean Diet owes its effectiveness:
    • the prevalence of foods of plant origin over those of animal origin
    • to their SEASONALITY and the tendency to consume them RAW
    • the abundance of CEREALS and LEGUMES compared to refined carbohydrate foods
    • to the LOW use of meat (especially red and fatty) to the advantage of poor FISH and LEAN WHITE meats
    • the use of OIL and spices as a condiment with respect to animal fats and sauces
    • the ABSENCE of sweetened drinks in favor of RED WINE.
    Ultimately, the Mediterranean Diet is packed with FUNCTIONAL FOODS and free from Junk FOOD.

    But what does “FUNCTIONAL FOOD” mean in PRACTICAL terms?
    It is an edible, absorbable and nutritious product, which boasts the ability to PROMOTE the HEALTH of those who consume it. Practically, the functional foods of the Mediterranean diet allow you to MAINTAIN a good physical condition or IMPROVE a precarious one.

    But be careful… these are NOT DRUGS! But of natural products. This clarification is essential to understand that the Mediterranean Diet owes its effectiveness to the CONTINUITY of the nutritional habit and, at the same time, does NOT involve any SIDE EFFECT!

    Let's now go into the details of the foods that make up the Mediterranean Diet.

    For convenience, these will be divided into different groups, or rather, into the 7 FUNDAMENTAL FOOD GROUPS proposed by the National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition (INRAN).

    We could also have exploited the well known FOOD PYRAMID but, due to its numerous REVISIONS, it would certainly have become MORE COMPLICATED.

    Let's start by specifying that, below, the foods of the TRUE MEDITERRANEAN diet will be described, that is the one adopted by the populations of the basin BEFORE technology and globalization significantly affected collective nutrition.

    GROUP I: Meat, fishery products and eggs

    These are foods consumed in EXTREME moderation.

    The meat used in the Mediterranean Diet is LOW and almost ONLY LEAN, therefore avian and rabbit. It could also be defined WHITE but small hunting products are ALSO frequent, namely BLACK MEAT (hares, pigeons, birds of passage, more rarely local wild boars).

    The only meat obtained from the slaughter of large animals would be sheep and goat OVINE ones, while cow and pig represent more than anything else an exception.

    Obviously, OFFALS are also part of the Mediterranean Diet. This therefore allows you to alternate the meat of muscle with that of the liver, heart, etc. By significantly increasing the intake of certain vitamins and mineral salts. In the Mediterranean Diet, meats should be eaten no more than once or twice a week.

    The fishery products are mainly those of the river mouths and the coastal coast, as well as the most numerous and easily available with artisanal systems. Tuna and swordfish are rarer, while pike, eel, blue fish, white bream, sea bream, mullet, sea bass, octopus, cuttlefish, mussels, certain sea snails and many others stand out. They are the major sources of essential omega 3 fatty acids and have a positive effect on metabolic diseases.

    Fishery products should be consumed no more than two or three times a week.

    The eggs are whole and of any kind. Their consumption should be related to the frequency of wild harvesting and to the breeding of laying species. It is therefore not easy to establish what the REAL frequency of egg consumption may be, but it is likely that it can be between 1 and 3 eggs per week.

    GROUP II: Milk and derivatives

    Sheep and goat, NOT cow. While milk and yogurt are quite used foods in the Mediterranean Diet, cheeses are QUANTITALLY much less.

    In the Mediterranean Diet, cheese is the only FAT food of animal origin.

    GROUP III and IV: Cereals, Tubers and Legumes

    To be eaten EXCLUSIVELY COOKED, these are some of the most used products in the Mediterranean Diet; their consumption is daily but in small portions.

    In recent centuries, consumption in the form of FLOURS has been favored but, in reality, they should be taken whole and in soupy form.

    They have a predominantly energetic function and, when combined, provide ALL the essential amino acids.

    Furthermore, they are rich in fiber, in many vitamins which tend to be water-soluble and in certain mineral salts, among which the most EXCLUSIVE is magnesium; there is no shortage of other useful molecules such as lecithins, which have a cholesterol-lowering function.

    GROUP V: Fats and oils for seasoning

    The seasoning fats of the Mediterranean Diet are VEGETABLE OILS. Of these, the most famous is extra-virgin olive oil as, thanks to the content of:
    • fatty acids and phytosterols that lower cholesterol
    • anti tumor antioxidants
    associated with the notable gustatory properties, it represents the parent of functional foods.

    Consumption is daily but the quantity is decidedly modest (a few tens of grams), nevertheless, in the diet it represents more than half of the total lipids.

    In this category, even if they are different products, I also include oil seeds such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.

    Group VI and VII: Vegetables, fruit and spices, sources of vit. A and C

    This food category is for daily consumption. They become part of ALL meals and especially "raw". They are the only source of simple sugars, in the form of fructose.

    Together with oil, whole grains and legumes, they are the functional foods par excellence; their content in fiber, antioxidants, phytosterols and a few good fats make them protective against diseases of well-being and many forms of cancer.

    The high content of water and potassium guarantees further protection from the onset of hypertension and greater physical PERFORMANCE.

    Last but not least, red wine.

    This is not part of the basic food groups but its consumption in SMALL portions (1 or 2 glasses a day) favors the supply of many anticancer antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering molecules.

    We conclude this brief presentation by remembering that the Mediterranean Diet is a NORMOCALORIC diet that must comply with an at least ACTIVE lifestyle.

    This allows for better cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness, greater energy expenditure and therefore greater portions of food.
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