People who are at home around the Mediterranean Sea live longer and usually have fewer figure problems. No wonder, because the southerners combine health with pleasure and joie de vivre in a delicious way. Vita and the Mediterranean Lunch protect against heart attacks and strokes. Thanks to the variety of delicious treats from crunchy vegetables, grilled fish and golden olive oil, even cancer and diabetes occur less frequently. A look into the pots of Mediterranean cuisine reveals why this food is so healthy and how the meal can taste a little like holiday, sun and sea every day.
What is Mediterranean nutrition?
The eating habits of the rural population in the Mediterranean between 1950 and 1960 coined the term “Mediterranean Lunch”. Mother Nature delivered the food for this distinctly herbal diet free of charge. They ate what the region had to offer in season, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, rice, potatoes, nuts, the popular pasta and plenty of olive oil. There was also grilled fish and a glass of red wine. For many years, the inhabitants cooked like this, especially in the olive-growing areas of Crete, Greece and Italy, and mostly enjoyed excellent health. Since the arrival of fast food and finished products in Southern Europe, the tide has turned. The traditional Mediterranean Lunch is only prepared in a few small areas exactly as it used to be.
Since the climate conditions and taste preferences vary greatly in the many southern countries, there is no uniform Mediterranean Lunch in the Mediterranean region. Nevertheless, there are similarities in the selection and preparation of foods that are characteristic of traditional Mediterranean cuisine. In any case, it is a balanced and varied diet that provides a large quantity of valuable ingredients for health. Gentle cooking such as steaming or steaming ensures that these are hardly lost during cooking.
Ingredients in traditional Mediterranean cuisine
To be consumed abundantly:
Vegetables and fruitMediterranean vegetables
Grain products such as (wholemeal) bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
Nuts and seeds
fresh or dried herbs and garlic
“white meat” like poultry.
Olive oil for salad and cooking as main fat supplier
Eaten in moderation:
dairy products such as yoghurt, hard cheese and mozzarella
Red wine, mostly only with meals
Less often consumed:
“red meat” such as beef, pork and lamb meat
Mediterranean Lunch as a diet?
The Mediterranean Lunch is often mentioned in the same breath as the Mediterranean or Crete diet. The traditional Mediterranean cuisine is not a temporary diet to reduce overweight or to alleviate discomfort. The term “diet” is translated as diet or way of life. And this describes the food culture as life attitude of the southerners very aptly. Mediterranean nutrition is a form of nutrition for every day, easily digestible and easy to prepare.
Is the Mediterranean diet really that healthy?
Researchers of the so-called 7-country study already proved the positive effect of the Mediterranean Lunch on health in the middle of the last century. They observed at that time that the inhabitants of Crete suffer less from cardiovascular diseases than the citizens of other European countries and the USA. In further investigations since then, scientists also found a protective function of the Mediterranean cuisine for diabetes mellitus and cancer. People suffering from multiple sclerosis or rheumatism could also benefit from the anti-inflammatory effect of the Mediterranean Lunch. The traditional food culture of Southern Europeans is also expected to make a positive contribution to the prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Protective factors of the Mediterranean Lunch
It is not entirely clear which ingredients are responsible for the health-promoting properties of the Mediterranean diet. The combination of the various foods with their high content of carbohydrates, dietary fibres, vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances as well as their favourable fatty acid pattern and low cholesterol intake probably plays a decisive role.
Cuisine in Mediterranean style
Mediterranean startersThe health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine can be easily integrated into the German menu. Since pizza, lasagne and the like have long been an integral part of the local food culture, the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and the type of vegetable oil must also be taken into account. A Mediterranean-German diet could look like this:
Fruit and vegetables
Daily 2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables, according to the campaign “5 a day” bring color to the menu. From aubergines to courgettes, there is a wide range of vegetables to choose from that can be prepared in many ways. Whether as Italian Antipasti, multicolored salad variation, mixed with noodles and rice or simply so to the nibbling: with the preparation of vegetables à la Mediterranean no borders are set to the fantasy. Vitamins and secondary plant substances in fruit and vegetables prevent many diseases. Tomatoes, with their high content of lycopene and beta-carotene, as well as peppers, for example, are particularly recommended for the protection of the heart, blood vessels and against cancer, as their vitamin C content can hardly be exceeded by citrus fruits.
Cereal products, pulses and Co.
The apparently beloved white bread of Southern Europeans may be replaced by fine wholemeal bread in a balanced diet. Peas, lentils and beans as soups, salads, spreads or side dishes should be on the table more often because of their high content of fibre, protein and vitamins. Mediterranean cuisine also has much to offer in terms of healthy vegetarian main meals: from cannelloni with broccoli filling to pasta of all kinds with olive oil, pesto or garlic to rice pan with vegetables and pumpkin seeds. The Mediterranean cereal products with a high satiation value spread a real Mediterranean flair: couscous (wheat semolina), polenta (corn semolina) and bulgur (wheat grits) as a side dish. Blood lipids and digestion also benefit from all the fibre-rich products.
Walnuts, almonds and pistachios provide valuable unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins for nibbling in between or as an ingredient in salads.
Dairy products, eggs, meat and sausage
The Mediterranean countries traditionally eat sour milk products because they are better preserved at high temperatures. Yoghurt with walnuts and honey is very much appreciated by the Greeks. In this country the yoghurt can be refined with fresh fruits instead of honey. Or one chooses the spicy variant as Zaziki with cucumber, garlic and fresh herbs. Very calcium-rich cheeses are available with peccorino and parmesan. Eggs, meat and sausages are rare in Mediterranean cuisine. This saves cholesterol and at the same time lowers the unnecessarily high consumption of saturated fatty acids.
When the sea is virtually on your doorstep, it is easy to prepare freshly caught sea fish several times a week. However, the health benefits of the heart protecting omega-3 fatty acids in sea fish, the high iodine content and the valuable protein should also be used here. Grilling, steaming, steaming or as bread topping extends the range of fish dishes.
Olives and oilMany Mediterranean dishes give the impression that you are almost swimming in fat. The total fat intake in the Mediterranean Lunch, at 35 percent of the daily calorie intake, is actually relatively high compared to the recommendation of the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung) at less than 30 percent. Heart health depends not only on the amount of fat, but also on the type and composition of the fats. With olive oil, their liquid gold, the Mediterranean countries use an ideal vegetable oil as the main source of fat. The favourable ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids has a positive effect on blood lipids. A similarly advantageous fatty acid pattern with 55 percent monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil: 70 percent) contains native rapeseed oil.
Instead of salt, the Mediterranean Lunch gives the dishes with fresh and dried herbs their irresistible aroma. A small herb garden, where basil, sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano find their place, is also extremely beneficial to health. For some people who suffer from high blood pressure, the replacement of salt with aromatic herbs could be beneficial. In addition, each herb has its own effect on well-being and gives each dish an individual touch.
When it comes to the classic glass of red wine with meals, one can be quite divided regarding the health-promoting effect. Polyphenols (secondary plant substances), especially in red wine, can prevent thrombosis and cancer. Without wine, however, nutrition is certainly not significantly less healthy. Who would like, may gladly now and then a small glass permit itself. Care should be taken that the daily maximum amount of alcohol is not exceeded. For healthy women, a maximum of 10 grams of alcohol per day (e.g. 125 ml red wine) applies, and for women who are healthy, a maximum of 10 grams of alcohol per day (e.g. 125 ml red wine) applies.