From ‘Natural News‘:
By Kirk Patrick, (NaturalNews) Well-known for promoting longevity, the Mediterranean diet is based on a wide spectrum of popular health foods. Bordering some 21 countries including France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Spain, Syria and Turkey, the Mediterranean Sea is a rather large area. While the most nutritious ingredients in particular have long been the subject of debate, preparing whole meals from scratch is best for optimizing the medicinal benefits (and flavor). The following article will explore ten of the healthiest foods from the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean Top Ten
Part I: Top 5 Protein Sources
* Lamb (Sheep) – Ovis aries (Bovidae)
Sheep less than one year old are called lamb, where older sheep are called mutton. Even commercial lots tend to raise them more humanely than beef. Lamb contains vitamin B, iron, protein, tryptophan, and zinc. Grass-fed lamb contains Omega-3. Lamb tallow (lard) is useful for cooking. Lamb bones contain large amounts of gelatin and are stewed into stock used (with barley) in a soup called Scotch Broth.
* Wheat (Bulgar) – Triticum spp. (Poaceae)
A form of wheat that is parboiled and de-branned, bulgar should not to be confused with cracked wheat (crushed wheat berries). Wheat contains vitamins B1, B2, B3 and iron, along with magnesium, manganese, fiber, and tryptophan. Bulgar is low in fat, high in fiber, and contains protein. Bulgar is used in tabouli.
* Sesame (seed) – Sesamum indicum (Pedaliacea)
Sesame seeds contain lineolic acid, an unsaturated essential Omega-6 fatty acid. Sesame contains vitamin B3, E, folic acid, and protein. Sesame seeds are native to Africa, and are made into a paste called tahini (a key component in both hummus and baba ganoush).
* Garbanzo (bean) – Cicer arietinum (Faboideae)
Also called chick peas, garbanzo beans contain tryptophan, copper, fiber, folate, iron, manganese, molybdenum, protein, phosphorous and tryptophan. Originating in the Middle East, these legumes help lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar levels, and contain natural sulfites that feature detoxifying properties. Garbanzo beans are a key component in hummus. As with most grains, dried garbanzo beans are sprouting seeds.
* Pine (nut) – Pinus pinea (Pinaceae)
The seeds to pine trees, pine nuts contain the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid along with vitamins A, C, and D. Pine nuts contain protein and fiber. Pine nuts help to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen teeth and bones, boost the immune system, sharpen vision and help the body to absorb other nutrients. Pine nuts are a key component in pesto.
Part II: Top 5 Plant Foods
* Olive – Olea Europaea (Oleaceae)
Fresh olives along with oil from the first cold pressing contain oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid. Olives help lower blood pressure, treat asthma, relieve arthritis, prevent diabetes, increase metabolism and help treat and prevent cancer. Olives have anti-inflammatory properties.
* Grape (leaf and fruit) – Vitis vinifera (Vitaceae)
Red grapes contain anthocyanins, known for their cardiovascular protective effects, along with vitamins A, B1, B2 and C. Grapes also contain flavonoids, tannins, tartrates, inositol, carotenes, choline and pectin. The sap of the grape vine is used as an eyewash. Grapes are fermented to make red wine, white wine and balsamic vinegar. The ashes of burnt grape branches are a natural tooth whitener if used over the long term. Both grape leaves and grape vinegar have anti-inflammatory effects and soothe irritated skin. Grapes reduce digestive problems, relieve menstruation symptoms, and strengthen capillaries. As grape plasma is close to blood plasma, “grape fasts” are used for detoxification.
* Eggplant – Solanum melongena (Solanaceae)
Eggplant contains nasunin, a phytonutrient, flavonoid and antioxidant. Also called aubergine, eggplant contains caffeic and chlorogenic acid (phenolic compounds) along with magnesium and potassium. Eggplant protects the brain from free radical damage, reduces cholesterol and improves cardiovascular health. A member of the nightshade family, eggplant has antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
* Parsley – Petroselinum crispum (Umbelliferae)
Parsley contains myristicin and aiole both volatile oils and antioxidants. Parsley also contains vitamins A, C, and E along with bergapten, flavonoids, iron, coumarins, and phthalides. Also a natural pain reliever, parsleyrelieves menstruation. Fresh parsley can be chewed to neutralize garlic breath. Parsley root has medicinal properties also. Parsley has anti-inflammatory properties.
* Mint (leaf) – Mentha x piperita (Lamiaceae)
Peppermint contains menthol and menthone, both volatile oils, along with the antioxidants luteolin and menthoside. A natural digestive aid, peppermint relaxes the abdominal muscles, reduces nausea, relieves constipation and soothes irritated skins. A natural pain reliever, peppermint oil relieves headaches and even migraines when rubbed on the temples. A hybrid of spearmint (menthe spicata) and watermint (menthe hirsute), peppermint has antibacterial, antifungal and antispasmodic properties.
Part III: Serving Suggestions
Lamb is often mixed with beef where it is slow cooked, sliced thin and served on pita bread (Gyros). This dish is served with a blend of cucumber, yogurt and dill called Tzaziki sauce.
However a much easier (and healthier) dish is also one of the easiest foods to make at home: hummus. The only four required ingredients are garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon and garlic. Optional ingredients include olive oil, red pepper, and sun-dried tomato.
For hummus, mix 1 can of garbanzo with 1/2 cup tahini (about a 2 to 1 ratio of mostly beans). Add the juice of 1 lemon and 1-3 garlic cloves, and optional ingredients.
For baba ganoush, substitute mashed (cooked) eggplant for garbanzo beans in the hummus recipe. Mash or blend ingredients and sprinkle with paprika for color.
Serve with pita bread, lemon wedges and sprigs of parsley.Learn more: By Part III: Serving SuggestionsLamb is often mixed with beef where it is slow cooked, sliced thin and served on pita bread (Gyros). This dish is served with a blend of cucumber, yogurt and dill called Tzaziki sauce.However a much easier (and healthier) dish is also one of the easiest foods to make at home: hummus. The only four required ingredients are garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon and garlic. Optional ingredients include olive oil, red pepper, and sun-dried tomato.For hummus, mix 1 can of garbanzo with 1/2 cup tahini (about a 2 to 1 ratio of mostly beans). Add the juice of 1 lemon and 1-3 garlic cloves, and optional ingredients.For baba ganoush, substitute mashed (cooked) eggplant for garbanzo beans in the hummus recipe. Mash or blend ingredients and sprinkle with paprika for color.Serve with pita bread, lemon wedges and sprigs of parsley.
From ‘Oldways’: (Copyright permission pending)
Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of the World Health Organization introduced the classic Mediterranean Diet in 1993 at a conference in Cambridge, MA, along with a Mediterranean Diet Pyramid graphic to represent it visually.
This pyramid continues to be a well-known guide to what is now universally recognized as the “gold standard” eating pattern that promotes lifelong good health. It has been widely used for years by consumers, educators, and health professionals alike to implement healthier eating habits.
The pyramid was created using the most current nutrition research to represent a healthy, traditional Mediterranean diet. It was based on the dietary traditions of Crete, Greece and southern Italy circa 1960 at a time when the rates of chronic disease among populations there were among the lowest in the world, and adult life expectancy was among the highest even though medical services were limited.
The key to this longevity is a diet that successfully resisted the last 50 years of “modernizing” foods and drinks in industrialized countries. These modern trends led to more meat (mostly beef) and other animal products, fewer fresh fruits and vegetables, and more processed convenience foods. Ironically, this diet of “prosperity” was responsible for burgeoning rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
The “poor” diet of the people of the southern Mediterranean, consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts, healthy grains, fish, olive oil, small amounts of dairy, and red wine, proved to be much more likely to lead to lifelong good health. Other vital elements of the Mediterranean Diet are daily exercise, sharing meals with others, and fostering a deep appreciation for the pleasures of eating healthy and delicious foods.
Download a color illustration of the Med Pyramid (243K JPEG)
► Go to the Consumer Resources page to download a wealth of Mediterranean Diet tools and materials.
The Eating Pattern of The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
Dietary data from the parts of the Mediterranean region that in the recent past enjoyed the lowest recorded rates of chronic diseases and the highest adult life expectancy are characterized by a pattern similar to the one illustrated in the list below. The healthfulness of this pattern is corroborated by more than 50 years of epidemiological and experimental nutrition research. The frequency and amounts suggested are in most cases intentionally nonspecific, since variation was considerable. The historical pattern includes the following (several parenthetical notes add a contemporary public health perspective):
- An abundance of food from plant sources, including fruits and vegetables, potatoes, breads and grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Emphasis on a variety of minimally processed and, wherever possible, seasonally fresh and locally grown foods (which often maximizes the health-promoting micronutrient and antioxidant content of these foods).
- Olive oil as the principal fat, replacing other fats and oils (including butter and margarine).
- Total fat ranging from less than 25 percent to over 35 percent of energy, with saturated fat no more than 7 to 8 percent of energy (calories).
- Daily consumption of low to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt (low-fat and non-fat versions may be preferable).
- Twice-weekly consumption of low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry (recent research suggests that fish be somewhat favored over poultry); up to 7 eggs per week (including those used in cooking and baking).
- Fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert; sweets with a significant amount of sugar (often as honey) and saturated fat consumed not more than a few times per week.
- Red meat a few times per month (recent research suggests that if red meat is eaten, its consumption should be limited to a maximum of 12 to 16 ounces [340 to 450 grams] per month; where the flavor is acceptable, lean versions may be preferable).
- Regular physical activity at a level which promotes a healthy weight, fitness and well-being.
- Moderate consumption of wine, normally with meals; about one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women. From a contemporary public health perspective, wine should be considered optional and avoided when consumption would put the individual or others at risk.
Updating the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
During the 15th Anniversary Mediterranean Diet Conference in November 2008, several major updates were made to the Classic Mediterranean Diet Pyramid by the Scientific Advisory Board. These changes focused on gathering plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, olives and olive oil) in a single group to visually emphasize their health benefits. The scientific committee made this change to draw attention to the key role of these delicious and healthy plant foods in this health-promoting eating pattern.
A new feature on the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is the addition of herbs and spices, for reasons of both health and taste. Also, herbs and spices contribute to the national identities of various Mediterranean cuisines. The committee changed the placement of fish and shellfish on the pyramid, recognizing the benefits of eating fish and shellfish at least two times per week.
Download the complete notes for the 2008 Mediterranean Diet Pyramid Update.
Some Common and Uncommon Foods and Flavors of The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
Download a Printer-Friendly PDF of the info below.
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