Diets

Mediterranean Diet

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The Mediterranean diet is fashioned on the traditional cuisines of Crete, Greece and southern Italy and is renowned for being a diet low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fats, high in antioxidants, and high in dietary fibre. 


The Mediterranean diet has some key characteristics:                                          


  • High in carbohydrate such as breads, pastas, rice, couscous, polenta and potatoes
  • Lower in serves of lean red meat, and with smaller serving sizes
  • Includes different sources of protein, including regular serves of steamed or grilled fish, low fat dairy products, nuts and legumes
  • High in fresh fruit (3-4 serves per day) and vegetables (5+ serves per day, including legumes such as chickpeas and lentils)
  • Includes fresh fruit as desert
  • Includes moderate amounts of olive oil instead of butter and saturated fats
  • Includes low to moderate amounts of alcohol (mostly wine)
  • Includes regular physical activity

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The high fruit and vegetable content of the diet makes the diet high in soluble and insoluble fibre, which protects against heart disease by helping to decrease the absorption of cholesterol, as well as decreasing the risk of certain cancers such as bowel cancer. 

The high fibre content also helps to lower the GIycaemic Index (GI) of the diet, making you feel fuller for longer.

Because of the fewer serves of red meat, and the substitution with fish and legumes as protein sources, the saturated fat content of the diet is far less than the average Australian diet. The addition of olive oil to meals increases the amount of monounsaturated (‘good’) fat in the diet.

Keep in mind though that olive oil, although a source of the ‘good’ fats, is still a concentrated source of calories, so from a weight loss perspective, use in moderation, and stick with low fat forms of dairy products.

Australians could do well to incorporate some elements of the Mediterranean diet – like eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting down saturated fats. This is a sustainable diet which encourages moderation, but be wary of over doing calorie dense olive oils and carbohydrate portion sizes.


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