Exploring the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on the principles of food selected and preparation of Eastern countries adjacent to the Mediterranean sea. These regions include, most famously, Greece, along with Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, and even Israel. The happy accidents of oceanic foodstuff availability and a warm, mild climate suitable for farming have given risen to making this diet one of the most healthy in the world. Although there are a whole host of advantages to eating Mediterranean, most proponents like to focus on its benefits for heart health, due in large part to a heavy lack of emphasis on unhealthy fats and red meat.
However, you don't need to be a vegetarian to get a lot of use out of a Mediterranean-based diet. Although you won't find pork or beef in most recipes, any good Mediterranean meal plan makes seafood a centerpiece for protein. Scallops, mussels, salmon, shrimp and even calamari play a significant part in Mediterranean cuisine. Frying is dropped in favor of the healthier option of grilling, with a reliance on tangy marinades for flavor and tenderness.
The meat may be the expensive showcase of a meal, but the beating heart of a Mediterranean dining experience actually is a component of food you may easily overlook: the oil. The heart-friendly alternative of olive oil replaces unhealthy fats like butter, helping control risk of heart disease and insulin flow. Always substituting in olive oil whenever appropriate is one of the defining traits of a Mediterranean diet, and perhaps plays the most important role of all in the cuisine's overall heart-positive reputation. This substitution includes moisturizing bread at the table, which should be dipped in oil, and never buttered.
Along those same lines, salt should be avoided as being just as unhealthy and inappropriate as butter. Instead, minced, fresh herbs and spices are used to give flavor to the white fish, salads, stews, and other, plentiful dishes at your disposal. Cumin, fennel, mint, thyme, tarragon and anise are just a handful of examples of the multitude of flavors at your disposal.
Of course, no diet plan is complete without including some form of fruit or vegetable intake. Mediterranean style diets emphasize quantity of fruits and vegetables for the bulk of many meals, with a bare minimum of about six servings daily. Cucumbers, crimini or pleurotus mushrooms, zucchinis, spinach, artichokes, chickpeas and bell peppers each can edge in their fair place at the table. In terms of fruit, lemon must be pointed out as a particularly favorite, refreshing flavoring for main and side dishes that also happens to be crammed full of vitamin C.
Unlike many diets that try to turn bread into the Boogieman, a Mediterranean meal doesn't try to make a full course without any grains. Although vegetables and fruits still make up the overall majority of a meal, whole grains do have their place. Whole grain bread and even pasta can still be used as a ‘bed' from which to build up the presentation of your sauces, meats and veggies. People watching their salt intake should be particularly aware that pitas, while definitely preferable to standard white bread, does have high sodium content, and shouldn't be overindulged on the assumption that it's de facto ‘health food.'
Above all else, the overall focus and theme of a Mediterranean style diet is to switch from unhealthy sources of meal components to healthy ones. Unlike gimmick diets that tell you to strictly avoid ingredients that are all but essential to the dining experience, Mediterranean diets offer ample resources and swap-ins for everything you'd want at the dinner table. Celebrity-popularized fads in eating may come and go, but years from now, the Mediterranean diet will still be around, giving people filling, delicious, practical meals while leaving a positive imprint on their overall health.