Exploring Oldways

What is the Mediterranean Diet?
by Ellen Michel

ImageStudied for the past half century, the Mediterranean diet first gained widespread public attention about 10 years ago, with a presentation by Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University's School of Public Health. Since then, it has gained recognition as a modern nutritional model inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of some of the olive-growing countries of the Mediterranean basin. In these regions, rates of chronic disease have been among the lowest in the world, with adult life expectancy among the highest in spite of limited medical services.
Based on food patterns typical of Crete, much of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes the importance of regular physical activity (including gardening and walking), and recommends consumption of at least six glasses of water each day. It allows wine in moderation, especially noting the benefits of red wine. Purple grape juice is also very beneficial.

The foods that make up the core of the Mediterranean diet are naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. They include extra virgin olive oil ('EVOO'), fruits and vegetables, unsweetened probiotic yogurt, natural cheese, beans, hummus, nuts, and slow-carb pasta, grains, and bread. Fish and poultry are recommended in low to moderate amounts, along with eggs and limited servings of red meat. The Mediterranean diet is often cited as beneficial for being low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat and dietary fiber.

At Bloomingfoods, we like the Mediterranean and other traditional foodways diets for their emphasis on slower, natural foods - on grains and legumes enhanced with vegetables, herbs and spices, and small amounts of high quality animal protein. This diet is especially effective if the ingredients are fresh, seasonal, and locally grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Research indicates that the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet may include:

  • longer lifespan
  • the prevention of certain cancers
  • improved blood sugar, especially for diabetics
  • decreased risk of asthma, allergies, and arthritis
  • enhanced memory and brain function
  • lower bad cholesterol and increased good cholesterol
  • support for weight loss and maintenance
  • the promotion of heart health

Bloomingfoods is partnering with Oldways Preservation Trust and Med Mark - a group devoted to helping more people achieve good health by eating the Mediterranean way. Watch for more Med Mark information in this newsletter and our stores!

Learn more about Med Mark and the Mediterranean Diet.

Download the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.