Healthy Traits of the Mediterranean Diet
Few dietary patterns have reached the popularity of the Mediterranean diet. Tasty, savory and, most of all, healthy, this diet is one of the most characteristic features of the Greek culture.
With healthy benefits praised by doctors and nutritionists all over the world, the Mediterranean diet grows in popularity. As the years go by, Mediterranean dishes never go out of fashion.
The Mediterranean is home to a significant cultural diversity. The area, surrounded by Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Lebanon, Turkey, and North Africa, presents a variety of culinary traditions. Often recipes overlap so distinctive cuisines share nutritional attributes and ingredients.
Probably the best example of the diet finds its origins on the island of Crete. On this island, people live longer and suffer from fewer diseases.
Different staple ingredients build the foundations of the Mediterranean diet. And each of them is a healthy, nutritious, and tasty product. As a rule, the Mediterranean diet is plant-based, high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and unprocessed grains. It is also low in meat with a reduced consumption of dairy. Finally, olive oil bounds together every ingredient, defining its basic traits.
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive trees, vineyards, and wheat have always been part of the Mediterranean region. Therefore, as a wholesome expression of the local culture, sitting at a Mediterranean table mostly means relying on fresh home cooking with local ingredients.
Used raw, but also for cooking and baking, extra-virgin olive oil is the main source of fat in the diet, also used for cooking and baking.
Grains and veggies
As far as grains are concerned, wheat is the basic grain of the Mediterranean. On the other hand, emmer (also known as farro) has recently found renewed popularity. Locals often bake using unrefined wheat and barley flours, while home-made pies are among the most popular choices.
Savory pies made with wild greens (locally known as xorta) are key dishes all over Greece. Fennel, dandelion greens, chicory, and rocket. Another key trait of the Greek diet is a spread use of herbs and spices. These turn very simple dishes into an appealing explosion of color and flavor.
On any Mediterranean table, there are also oranges and lemons. Original from the East, the Arab introduced them in the region. One healthy habit at the table is that of squeezing lemons on salads or fish. Refreshing lemonades from hand-picked lemons are maybe the perfect beverage to go with the pleasant weather of the area.
Dairy in moderation
Among the first cheese producers and consumers in the world, no Mediterranean table would be complete without some cheese. Traditional feta cheese but also local varieties, such as mythitra or graviera, provide extra protein to a vegetable-based diet. Authentic Greek feta cheese is made with goat or sheep’s milk. While yogurt with the excellent local honey is the most common and delicious Greek breakfast.
Some wine too!
Grapes, found in the region since very ancient times, have a role of their own in the Mediterranean diet. Grapes, mostly present in the form of wine, are at the origin of a striving wine industry in Greece. Red wine, in particular, contains beneficial healthy antioxidants.
Taste the Mediterranean
This traditional diet is based on local food, preparing simple meals with fresh ingredients at home is basic to the Greek lifestyle. Besides, its balanced approach to eating does not disregard enjoying some meat, sweet treats and wine in moderation.