The expression goes, ‘eat to live’, but sometimes, we live to eat! And what place better better to live & eat than in beautiful Italy while enjoying their rich, Mediterranean cuisine? Food is an experience of all of the senses in an Italian garden, and on a Mediterranean table, with the smooth texture and slightly salty notes of olives and olive oil – extra virgin of course. And let's not forget the unmatched aromatics of native basil and oregano, garlic, parsley, and lemon and the classic acidic flavours of home-grown tomatoes and the crunch of hazelnuts and the bitters of baby arugula.
The heart of the Mediterranean diet is whole food. A focus on anti-oxidant rich vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whole grains makes Mediterranean food wholesome, delicious, heart-healthy, and simple but elegant. In the Mediterranean diet, the locally favoured and accessible olive oil is the healthy fat of choice; salt is not favoured while local spices offer flavouring, and red meat is not the first protein on the menu. Instead, nuts, legumes, and fish are more likely staples on the typical Mediterranean diet plate, along with, perhaps, a fruity dessert or full-bodied red wine with dinner – in moderation of course.
Not surprisingly, the Mediterranean diet is found in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea: Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Morocco; Malta, Cyprus, and the list goes on.
Mediterranean food is healthy in its natural, unprocessed form. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed type of olive oil. It is monounsaturated fat – the kind you want for lower cholesterol and a healthy heart. Along with nut oils which are often polyunsaturated fats, we have the mix of linolenic acids that among other, heart and blood health benefits, lower blood pressure. So, grill up some fish in olive or canola oil to step up your blood health.
Even wine is a protective element of the Mediterranean diet. Between 5-10 ounces of red wine are considered moderate and supportive of heart health. Your prescribed amount depends on your age and gender. And, the other healthy beverage is skim milk (and cheeses) rather than higher fat versions.
In the Mediterranean diet, the largest food group contains fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs, and spices. It is from this foundation that the most daily intake will originate. In the Mediterranean diet, these foods are eaten daily. Next, fish and seafood are most important, eaten about twice a week. Meats and sweets are the smallest food group in the Mediterranean diet with these foods eaten very sparingly.
A focus on whole foods in their natural state as well as healthy oils, nuts, fish, chicken, fruits, veggies, and low-fat dairy are the keys to a Mediterranean cuisine. Their dishes are simple, elegant and it promotes good health. So, as they say, when in the capital – or perhaps even outside of Rome, give it a go and even raise a glass now and then, knowing that Mediterranean food can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.