In recent months the Italian Trade commission have held a series of events focusing on the Mediterranean diet and its potential benefits to us all; young, old, the fit and not so fit. At a recent seminar, the Commission invited a panel consisting of Valentina Harris, author of 40 Italian recipe books, seven Michelin star sprinkled chef Bruno Barbieri, and Jane Griffith, a dietician who has worked with British national sports teams over her career, moderated by journalist Andy Lynes, to discuss the benefits of the diet.
So, firstly, what is the Mediterranean diet? Well, for a start, it’s nothing like the ‘F plan Diet’ or the ‘Grapefruit Diet’ or any other faddy dietary plan that promises you guaranteed weight loss over a given number of weeks. These limited focus diets may work in the short term – and be incredibly boring while you’re following them, but when you return to your ‘normal’ eating style or pattern the weight inevitably comes back. The Mediterranean diet is a particularly interesting phenomenon which has developed naturally in countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain and Morocco, as well as the south of France. Of course there are variations in the style of cuisine and culture in all these countries, but there is a common thread that runs through their diet and it’s this which makes up the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is considered by UNESCO as the best diet for a healthy lifestyle and has been shown in areas where it’s commonly followed to lead to lower cholesterol levels, reduced incidence of stroke and heart disease and thus leading to longer healthier lives. The Mediterranean diet is more of a ‘dietary lifestyle’ than a ‘diet’. In its most simplistic form, it’s a diet that contains a good mix of carbohydrates, pasta, bread, grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables. If you drew a pyramid with three sections bisecting it horizontally and in the top section included sugars and sugary items, animal fats, red meats, cured meats, and dairy products; these items should make up only a small part of your diet. The middle section of the pyramid would contain fish, poultry and eggs; these are items can be eaten more frequently but still in moderation. The lower much larger section should contain fruit, vegetables, grains, cereals, pasta and olive oil, these items should be the staples in your diet, which you should eat most of.