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Learning about the Mediterranean Diet

Updated on December 30, 2014

This hub is an answer to the question "What is a Mediterranean Diet?" asked by ngureco.

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The mediterranean diet

In the past decades we started hearing about a food pattern that was highly praised – the Mediterranean diet. Medicals doctors discussed it, dietitians and nutritionists talked about it and suddenly it became a trend, a recipe everyone could and should follow, it was a new way of life, a new food pattern, a recipe for a healthier, happier life.

Well, the Mediterranean diet is nothing new, it’s been around for thousands of years, it is actually a way of living.

It was first recognized and studied in the 1940’s by an American Doctor, Ancel Keys, but only gained recognition in the 1990’s. The main fact that made this food pattern so important is that it has numerous health benefits.

Now, we mention diet and everyone shivers. In this case, we are not actually talking about a diet, no one starves and loses weight. This is about eating healthy food, rich in plant foods and healthy fats. It’s a way of life, no one that follows this diet, in Mediterranean countries, thinks that is following some sort of plan. It’s just the way we were raised.

My country, Portugal, it’s not a Mediterranean country, though it tends to be associated with the Mediterranean world and it does have a Mediterranean climate, but it is actually an Atlantic country. Nonetheless, the proximity to the Mediterranean, the fact that sea is all around us, our climate and culture, the wine, the olive trees, everything feels Mediterranean, therefore, we also follow this diet, which is just our way of living.

WHAT IS THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?

When I think of Mediterranean diet what comes to my mind is a grilled fish seasoned only with salt and a bit of lemon juice, a tomato salad and some good, fresh juicy fruit for dessert. And this sounds absolutely delicious to me. It’s not just about this, but it is somewhere along that line.

This diet implies:

- Plant foods;

- Beans, nuts, cereals and seeds;

- Lots of fruit;

- Olive oil in basically everything;

- Lots of cheese;

- Yogurts;

- Fish, poultry, eggs and red meat in moderation – but what we consider normal.

Some things that we always have around the house: lots of fruit, tomatoes, vegetables, vegetables, olive oil, cheese… well, actually all of the above.

Basically, a regular meal such as lunch or dinner is usually made up of a plate of soup (there we get all the veggies we need and it’s warm and delicious – it’s even delicious during the summer), then the main course, which is something along the line of some king of meat or fish, some carbs like rice or potatoes (personally I’m not a big fan of pasta) and salads (tomato, carrot, apple – yes, apple goes well onto salad, etc).

Finally, dessert which is usually fresh fruit, though we do love cakes and puddings.

We do have casseroles and pot roasts and the likes, but even when we cook them we use our usual ingredients keeping it as natural as possible.

For instance, it is not often that I use regular cooking oil, for instance sunflower oil and I very rarely use butter, my choice goes to olive oil. So, when cooking a pot roast I will be using olive oil and lots of garlic and onions and carrots and is it tasty, or what?

About soup, well, I grew up with soup. As a child I didn't fancy it very much, but it grew on me and now I can’t live without it and the fact is that it is a big part of our diet.

Soup has all those wonderful ingredients that you need, potatoes, cauliflower, carrot, onions, tomatoes, spinach, you name it... It is savory. It sorts of lines your stomach with before what is coming ahead with main course and allows you not to dig in the main course as if you hadn't eaten for a whole week and usually it is the main course that implies all the high calories and too much fat, so it’s a good thing, because it means you don’t need such a big portion of the main course.

Apparently this diet has a lot of fat involved, but the fat that is used is healthier than other sorts and that is good. This diet is about being low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat and high in dietary fiber.

The whole of it makes up for a low prevalence of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes.


WHY IS THIS DIET GOOD FOR US

So, let’s recap, this food pattern implies using a lot of fat, it also means tons of salt (we really like properly seasoned food) and we do enjoy our glass of wine, red, if possible. Does this make sense as a diet which is good for your health, really? Yes, really.

You see, we do use a lot of fat, but usually we prefer olive oil and it has lots of antioxidants and monounsaturated fat, such as oleic acid, all of which great for our health. It is argued that the monounsaturated fat lowers the risks of coronary disease, helps to lower bad cholesterol and there are even medical studies that suggest that olive oil prevents the appearance of certain types of cancer (breast, prostate, endometrium and digestive tract), not to mention it is as good as it gets as a skin moisturizer.

Now, for the red wine – everything in moderation – it actually contains flavonoids with have great antioxidant properties. Flavonoids are said to be responsible for anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer and anti-diarrheal activities.

But I think the big issues with this diet are actually the variety and freshness of the food we have. Our portions of each course are not very big, because we eat several small portions. A bit of soup, a bit of bread, main course, salad, dessert, lots of fruit all day long, yogurts and cheese. It is actually a well balance food pattern. Then it is about the freshness, fresh fruit, fresh plant foods, fresh fish and meat.

Then it is also about the outdoors: we have nice weather, sunny, it’s nice to be outside, sun is also good for our health, directly, because also it allows us to go out all year long and play at the beach, play tennis or jog and ride bikes or have a picnic and all of that is Health.

THINKING OF GOING MEDITERRANEAN ALL THE WAY?

It’s not something you actually need to think through, because it is a good choice. It’s not about being hungry all day long (we actually enjoy eating a lot), it’s just about eating different things, changing your food patterns and experiencing new, delicious foods. You will be amazed.

Here are a few tips and recipes:

Soup may seem something you can do without, it’s not that tasty, it fills you up with vegetables, it does not seem that important…

Well, it is and it can be delicious, you just have to use your imagination.

There are two kinds of soup, which I usually cook, one type is a sort of a smooth vegetables puree, the other is sort of a vegetables stew soup. The ingredients vary depending on personal taste, but the basis is pretty much the same.

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My soup puree starts off always the same:

5 medium size potatoes (you can just use red bliss)

1 or 2 onions

5 garlic cloves

4 carrots

½ kale or cabbage

1 cube of chicken stock

5 tbsp of olive oil

Salt to taste

Now to this basis you can add other vegetables to taste, such as spinach or tomatoes or any other you feel like it. When I add tomatoes I usually don’t use spinach, but I sometimes boil an egg and when it’s done I just add it after chop it roughly. Other times I add fresh coriander at end (which goes amazingly well with the spinach).

You can chose to add spinach or any other vegetable before you puree the soup, that way you’ll have a whole puree soup or you can add it afterwards and you’ll end up with a less baby consistency to the soup and you’ll be able to better savor the one vegetable you want to highlight.

Another good idea is to add beans or roughly chopped turnip after you puree the soup. It offers great taste.

Once you have your vegetables picked, just take a large stock pot and place all the vegetables in it, chopped roughly, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, kale and whatever else you wish, then the chicken stock, salt and olive oil, cover it all with water and bring the soup to a boil, once it’s boiling lower to a medium-heat and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes. Once the thirty minutes have gone by get your hand blender and reduce everything to a smooth puree. You can serve it like this or you can add other ingredients afterwards, as I mentioned before.

My vegetables stew soup is also very simple, usually I do it one of two ways:

The first is basically a family recipe handed down by my great grandmother and basically means taking more or less the same ingredients as before and chopping them in middle to small sized cubes. Then we also add turnip and beans and a bit of rice. This soup is not a puree.

Therefore, just chop the potatoes (use only two or three, because you will also be using beans and rice), carrots, one onion, garlic cloves, 200 gr of beans, a quarter of the kale, a handful of rice, one turnip), use the stock pan and place it all in, adding the olive oil, the chicken stock and the salt, pour in water to cover it all and bring the soup to a boil, once it’s boiling lower to a medium-heat and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes, afterwards increase the heat and let it boil for another 10 to 15 minutes. It may be necessary to add a bit more of water. And it’s done.

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The second one is more of a summer soup. I think of it that way, because the ingredients remind me of summer.

4 ripe tomatoes

1 onion

5 garlic cloves

2 handful of rice

2 medium size potatoes

2 carrots

Handful of fresh coriander

1 cube of seafood stock

4 tbsp of olive oil

Salt to taste

Again you need to chop your vegetables and put them in your pan, cover them with water and bring the soup to a boil, once it’s boiling lower to a medium-heat and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes, afterwards increase the heat and let it boil for another 10 to 15 minutes. It may be necessary to add a bit more of water.

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After your soup you need to consider what your main course will be. Why not a mushroom and coriander rice, tomato salad and grilled pork steak?

Just take 4 good sized pork steaks, but finely sliced, and season them just with salt, let them rest.

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The rice:

Then take a medium size saucepan and cover the bottom with olive oil, chop half an onion and mince three garlic cloves and add it to the pan. Warm it over medium-high heat. Add salt to taste and the half of the chicken stock cube. Stir for three minutes. Afterwards add the mushrooms and the fresh coriander and water (the rule is water should be three times the amount of rice you will be using). Once it starts to boil lower the heat to a low-medium and add half a cup of rice and let it cook until the water is absorbed and rice is al dente. Be sure to stir it from time to time, while it is cooking. If the water is absorbed and you feel it’s not done yet, just add a bit more of warm water.

The tomatoes:

Could not be easier, just take two or three tomatoes, wash them and chop them in quarters, for instance, into a salad bowl, season them with salt to taste, olive oil and juice of half or one lemon.

The pork steaks:

Take your already seasoned steaks and place them on the hot grill. Cook for a few minutes on each side. The time depends on your personal taste, if you prefer them well done or not. Once done place them on a serving plate and season them with lemon juice.

Your meal is ready, enjoy!

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For dessert: fruit…

This is a well-balanced meal, tasty and healthy and on top of that, as is clear, quite easy and quick to put together, so how about it?

Feedback

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© Copyright Mar 24 2012 / Algarveview.hubpages.com. To use part or the whole article you must first get written permission from the author. Feel free, nonetheless, to use an intro of the hub with a link to the article here on hubpages for the rest of the article.

© 2012 Joana e Bruno

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    • Electro-Denizen profile image

      Electro-Denizen 5 years ago from Wales, UK

      This is a really informative hub. I agree with that, the variety and freshness, with everything in moderation, being a main factor - coupled with a sunny outdoor life - all conducive to a healthy life!

      I grew up in France and it was interesting to see the difference between my French friends and my British friends, as young adults. My French buddies would sit down and have a salad for lunch, with other healthy things, drink in moderation etc, my British buddies would probably have chips, look at a salad with fear in their eyes, and drink too much!

      Great hub voted up!

    • algarveview profile image
      Author

      Joana e Bruno 5 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hi, Electro-Denizen, thank you for reading and commenting. I think it has a lot to do on how we are raised, but nonetheless we can always change our habits and I do think this is a good recipe to an healthy life. And it is as you say, moderation, moderation, we can still enjoy the tasty things... Have a great day!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      What a wonderful look at the Mediterranean diet through human eyes! So often I read about these things in very clinical-style articles, which is odd, because food is all about humanity! Thanks for sharing more about the food- and for the recipes!

    • algarveview profile image
      Author

      Joana e Bruno 5 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hello, Simone, I'm so glad you liked it... You are right it is all about humanity and pleasure, of course, because a food pattern does not have to be flavourless and boring, it can be healthy and tasty at the same time... Thank you for reading and commenting and have a great day!

    • profile image

      markbennis 5 years ago

      I love Mediterranean food which is so fresh and rich in flavour and smells so good but being British how do I convince my partner to learn how to cook it?

      Well I will try first by guiding her to this fantastic Hub then fingers crossed I might be in for a big surprise ;) Voted up!

    • algarveview profile image
      Author

      Joana e Bruno 5 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hello, Mark, thanks for reading, commenting and voting. Anyway, tell your partner how easy it is, because it's true, most recipes are so simple and quick, that it's just a matter of getting used to it. Usually people think it's hard work, but it's not. If you'd like I have a great recipe on another hub for mushrooms (the one about seafood appetizers - the mushrooms are a twist) and it's so easy and quick that I think it's a great way to convince her, and it's delicious...

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      A well-detailed hub, congratulations! Have to vote it up,useful and interesting! I can see quite a strong similarity between the Mediterranean diet and the Asian diet, particularly the East Asian diet. Both diets are based on plant foods and consider the use of red meat as optional. The only striking difference perhaps is the use of olive oil, which I understand through your hub is used widely in the Mediterranean diet. In the Asian diet, virgin coconut oil is used instead of olive oil. Also, Mediterranean diet uses wine, which can be really great for our bad cholesterol. We do not have wine in the Asian diet though healthful tea, green tea if possible, is used in many ways. Despite their slight differences, both diets are really very healthy!

    • algarveview profile image
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      Joana e Bruno 5 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hi, Kerlynb, thank you so much for reading and commenting... I had never thought of that, but you are right, now that I come to think of it, there are many similarities between the mediterranean and the asian diet... I had never heard about virgin coconut oil, will look it up. Around here olive oil is king, we use it to cook everything, it is extremely healthy and very tasty... Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      I try to eat a Mediterranean died every day. It is true, it is one of the healthiest and the recipes you offer are great. Thank you so much for sharing these with us! Voted up!

    • algarveview profile image
      Author

      Joana e Bruno 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hello, Suzette, it was the way I was raised to eat, so I don't actually think about it as a diet, but it's healthy... and we sure need it, having also some recipes like Tripes Oporto Style, right? Thanks for stopping by, commenting and voting and have a great day!

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Voted UP and Shared. My wife and I try to leat these foods regularly, but occasionally we will drift back to more modern "trash" foods.

      This is a great Hub and I will crawl back onto the wagon after reading it.

      Don

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      All of this just makes such good sense! I hear more and more about olive oil. I haven't used it much as it is more expensive, but I think I am going to start. Fresh vegetables and lean meats are a "no brainer". I am going to start cooking more soups for lunch. Winter would be a good time to get hubby used to eating more soup. I will also keep more fruit around for late night snacking. Great hub! Voting up and more! :)

    • algarveview profile image
      Author

      Joana e Bruno 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hi, Don, I think the mediterranean diet is a great choice and what most people don't realize is that it has nothing to do with bland food, the food is actually very tasty, keeping all the natural flavours... So it's tasty and healthy... Thanks a lot for reading and commenting, glad you found this hub useful and thanks for voting and sharing! Have a great day!

    • algarveview profile image
      Author

      Joana e Bruno 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hello, sgbrown, it's really great if you think about it, soup is wonderful and gives you so much vitamins it's unbelievable and, as you say, wintertime is perfect for soup, I just love it when I'm cold, to have some hot soup, it makes me feel so much better... About the olive oil, you are right it is more expensive, but since we don't usually use it to fry, we don't need to use such big quantities. Hope you try it, it's delicious and healthy... Thanks a lot for reading, commenting and voting! Take care!

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