The Mediterranean diet is practically a buzzword in the food industry, and for years health experts, chefs, and foodies have praised the long-term health benefits of this lifestyle. And the Mediterranean diet is just that, a lifestyle. It’s not just eating lots of fruits and vegetables, it’s about daily habits that make your life more active and healthy.
The recent documentary series Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones with Dan Buettner discovers the world’s oldest populations, some of which are located in the Mediterranean. What makes members of these populations live so long is the Mediterranean diet along with certain lifestyle factors that make life worth living, contributing to long-term happiness, longevity and vitality.
So which countries have this classical Mediterranean diet? Well there are the obvious, Italy, Greece, and Spain, but also Egypt, Morocco, and Lebanon. These countries all surround the Mediterranean Sea, a region with rich fertile soil that is perfect for harvesting olives, tomatoes, legumes and more fresh produce that comprise almost every standard meal in their cultures.
What types of dishes are these cultures eating that so greatly improves their vitality? Because many of these countries have long coasts, many of their port cities consume a lot of seafood, which are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, low in saturated fats, and high in protein, but the majority of the public in these areas are consistently eating a diet of whole foods naturally harvested on their land.
Though traditional meals differ, the primary foods consumed in the overall Mediterranean diet include tomatoes, olive oil, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. These cultures also consume a lot of carbs. Most days in Italy, locals have bread for breakfast and pasta for lunch, but these carbs aren’t as highly processed as many breads and carb-based products in the U.S. In Spain, it’s common to have a sandwich for lunch with fresh bread.
One food that is often overlooked in Northwestern cuisine are legumes. In Egypt, hummus, falafel, and lentils are found in many traditional meals. Another main ingredient used constantly while cooking and added to dishes for taste is olive oil, a source of healthy fats.
The Mediterranean diet is not just about what you eat, it’s also about how you live. In many Mediterranean cultures it’s common to stay active in daily life in small ways. Going for daily walks or doing physical work by gardening or farming is common for many Mediterranean communities. This lifestyle also centers on community. Having strong connections with family, friends, and neighbors is also a part of the Mediterranean “diet.”
All of these factors make the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle worth a try.