Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional diet of Crete, Greece and Southern Italy in 1960, when the rates of chronic diet related diseases were at their lowest and the life expectancy was at its highest despite the absence of modern medicine.

 It consists of beans and nuts, fruits and vegetables, healthy grains, fish, olive oil, small amounts of dairy and red wine.  Exercise and seeing mealtimes as social events are also vital elements to the Mediterranean lifestyle (‘Mediterranean Diet | Oldways,’ 2018). 

Shelf Number (bottom to top of pyramid)Food type
1st shelfRecommends physical activity and to eat meals with others.  The
2md shelfContains fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seed, herbs & spices.  These foods should make up the base of all meals.
3rd shelf Fish and seafood are on the 3rd shelf and should be eaten at least twice a week. 
4th shelfPoultry, eggs and fermented dairy (yoghurt and traditional cheeses) are on the 4th shelf and should be eaten in moderate amounts. 
5th shelfMeats and sweets are on the 5th and top shelf, it is advised to eat these sparingly. 

Wine and water are also shown on the guidelines recommending drinking wine in moderation. 

The Mediterranean guidelines differ from the Irish guidelines in many ways.

  • Fruits & vegetables are on the same shelf as grains, legumes, nut, seeds, olive oil, herbs & spices. On the Irish food pyramid fruit & vegetables are on the same shelf. 
  • On the Mediterranean food pyramid fish and seafood have their own shelf whereas on the Irish pyramid fish is on the same shelf as meat, poultry and eggs. 
  • The Mediterranean food pyramid puts poultry and eggs on the same shelf as fermented dairy such as yoghurt an cheese. 
  • The Irish food pyramid has a separate dairy shelf.  The Irish guideline recommend using low fat dairy, the \Mediterranean guidelines do not.  The top shelf of the Mediterranean food pyramid has sweets and red meat.  The Mediterranean diet eat very little red meat which has been proven to lower the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and elevated “bad” cholesterol levels. 

I believe that eating with others may lower a person’s risk of over-eating.   In Mediterranean countries it is frowned upon to eat alone, mealtimes should not be rushed and should be taken with family or friends.  I believe mealtimes in Ireland are rushed and many people eat alone or in front of the television most of the time.  Adopting the Mediterranean outlook on mealtimes could be very beneficial to people in Ireland. 

There are many scientifically proven health benefits associated with following a traditional Mediterranean diet, these include;

  • Longer life expectancy 
  • Improved Brain Function
  • Lower risk of getting type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and certain cancers
  • Aiding your weight loss and management efforts 
  • Safeguard you from Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ward off Parkinson’s disease 
  • Improve rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Improve eye health
  • Reduce risk of dental disease
  • Help you breathe better 
  • Lead to improved fertility and healthier babies.

References

‘Mediterranean Diet | Oldways’,  (2018)