Most have heard of the new popular book out right now that explores the reasons why ‘French women don’t get fat’. It’s certainly not for lack of eating delicious food! The same might be said for the Mediterranean diet – the traditional foods that are prepared and eaten around the Mediterranean region of Europe. The people there may not be model-skinny, but here are few if any seriously overweight people who live the traditional lifestyle and eat traditional Mediterranean foods.
It comes down to great tasting, natural food. Forget what you think you know about Italian cuisine, for a start –yes, pizza and pasta do figure heavily in some regions of Italy, but not in the Mediterranean region. By the sea, people subsist on what they can catch from the sea and grow in their gardens. The result is natural, delicious food that is a pleasure to prepare and an even greater pleasure to eat.
Usually, we all naturally think of tomatoes – and it’s a fact that tomatoes grown in the Mediterranean sun are far superior to any that we might find elsewhere in the world. The Mediterranean basin is the home of the tomato, and the place where it grows best. But that’s just the beginning. There are a variety of other vegetables that the Mediterranean kitchen abounds with, and many of them happen to be dark green, red or orange in color. Believe it or not, that does matter – quite a bit, in fact. Studies have shown that dark green, red and orange vegetables have a higher concentration of anti-oxidants, making them powerful cancer fighters. Also, these tend to be more flavorful and satisfying than many other vegetables – especially when prepared according to Mediterranean recipes – and that means that you are more likely to fill up on vegetables. And that, of course, is one of the best things you can possibly do for maximum weight loss.
It’s true that meat is part of the diet, but it’s served rather sparingly. Fish is much more common, given that the Mediterranean life is oriented around the sea. Fish are grilled, or prepared as part of various cooked dishes that also contain vegetables. Forget the batter-covered English style fish and chips, though – Europeans living in the Mediterranean regions have much better things to do with their fish, with greatly superior results! Fish is often quite low in fat, as well as being an excellent source of protein. Even when the fat content is a little higher, however, don’t worry – fat that comes from fish is ‘good’ fat, healthy for your heart and bones.
Talking about ‘good’ fat, you can’t get much better than olive oil for cooking, drizzling on salads, or as a condiment of sorts. Olive oil has none of the harmful effects that some oils have when they are heated – it’s a good, clean oil that adds flavor, and if you’re using good quality olive oil, a little goes a long way! Try to buy cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from Italy, Greece or Spain, or maybe from a lesser known olive oil producer such as Croatia or Albania. In all of these countries, olive groves that are sometimes up to a thousand years old continue to produce olives for eating and oil production. Olives and olive oil are as much a part of the culture as any other aspect of Mediterranean cuisine.
You may have noticed, the Mediterranean diet is not necessarily a low calorie one, though it certainly can be – you can adjust the calorie content without sacrificing taste, because natural ingredients make up so much of the diet. If you are interested in eating healthily but not necessarily in losing weight, you can add in some of the ‘extras’ – red wine, some cheese and home baked bread, or the occasional dessert. Even without those extras, though, the Mediterranean diet is easy to follow and stick to because it simply tastes great.
Given that you are not living in a Mediterranean country (in which case you would probably be eating like this already), find a quality source of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables in your community. Try to find Greek or Italian grocery store, too, for more obscure ingredients. The Mediterranean diet is good eating for life, as well as being relatively easy and fun to follow.
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