Mediterranean Diet foods are those foods which are eaten by the people in the Mediterranean countries and are part of the Mediterranean Diet pyramid. We know that Mediterranean diet contains large amounts of fruits and vegetables since they are found in the ‘’most frequent’’ category of the Med diet pyramid. It also contains many other foods which are found in the other categories of the Med diet pyramid and these are the foods that we will mention and analyse further down in this article so that we will become more familiar with the Mediterranean foods, embrace them, cook them and off course eat them!
We all know that Mediterranean foods are healthy foods especially and ensure for our body’s health especially for our heart, but we need to be careful when we take foods with high unsaturated fats because even though they are good for our heart they can lead to weight gain due the increased calorie intake. As the ancient Greeks used to say: ‘’Pan metron ariston’’, Everything in Moderation. So we need to balance our diet and consume the necessary portions.
So what are the Mediterranean diet foods? We will try to provide the names and a high level description of some of the Mediterranean foods, some of which are known and some may be new to most of you. The Mediterranean cuisine is well known for its freshness and healthiness; and the Mediterranean diet recipes are numerous and it is surely difficult if not impossible to list all of them in one article. The key ingredients of the Mediterranean food include: Olive oil, vegetables, legumes, fish, eggs and poultry. Olive oil which is known for its properties against cancer, is a basic ingredient in every cooked food or Mediterranean salad. Olive oil is part of all the Mediterranean cuisines. The Mediterranean recipes are off course not complete without the necessary Mediterranean herbs and spices which add flavor and taste to every food.
Grains in the Mediterranean were left unrefined and they were used in this form in many Mediterranean foods and in the making of pasta, bread and couscous. The fact that grains were used unrefined had a positive effect on the health of the people because they were digested slowly and as a result glucose was produced slower and was absorbed easier by the body. In addition grains retained their fiber and Vitamin E thus protecting us from various chronic diseases.
Since meat should be eaten rarely in the Mediterranean diet, the Mediterranean people have a found a meaty flavor substitute for it and this is no other than the eggplant. It is a vegetable well suited for meals with sauces and one which has fiber and potassium while its skin has cancer-fighting properties.
Chickpeas belong to the legumes family and are one of the foods which can be eaten daily. They provide high quality protein and are rich in fiber. There are many recipes around which have Chickpeas as their main ingredient which means that eating chickpeas daily or every other day will not be the same experience. You can make a chickpeas meal as the main dish, you can use them in salads or you make paddies out of them and bake them in the oven. Whatever the case may be legumes should be one of the foods which should have a stable and frequent role in your diet.
Fish is another stable food in the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean people have a lot of fish in their diet since they live around the Mediterranean Sea. Every kind of fish is healthy and especially the oily ones which are rich of omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial to our heart. Fish can be eaten grilled or baked, plain or in combination of various sauces. Fish is a basic component of the Mediterranean diet and you should try to eat as much as fish as possible
Another basic component of the Mediterranean diet are nuts. Nuts are very beneficial to the human body and they are used as an ingredient in many foods. They are used in many salads and they are an ingredient, together with honey, which may accompany a Greek yogurt snack. The most popular nuts used are almonds.
Greek yogurt is part of the dairy products family which are found the ‘’frequently-eat’’ category of the Mediterranean diet. Yogurt and white cheeses can and should be consumed frequently since they are rich in Calcium and protect us against osteoporosis. There are many white cheeses in the market which come from various Mediterranean nations. We have the ricotta cheese from Italy, Mato cheese from Spain, the French Chevre cheese, the Turkish Beyaz Peynir, the Greek feta cheese and the Cypriot Halloumi cheese.
As we have stated in the beginning there are many recipes which have some or all of the Mediterranean Diet ingredients. Some of the popular Mediterranean diet dishes are: the Greek Moussaka which has eggplant and potato as its basic ingredients. The Italian minestrone soup is a healthy soup which can keep you warm during the cold winter period. The Moroccan chicken with couscous has become very a popular dish all over the world. A popular East-Mediterranean dish is falafel which is made of fava beans or chickpeas. The list may go on and on and the variations are, as we often say, limited by our imagination.
How would you know that you are cooking a Mediterranean diet dish? Well, one may say that every healthy dish is a Mediterranean diet dish but this is an exaggeration. The Mediterranean diet dishes have as their basic ingredients the foods listed in the Mediterranean diet pyramid and they are cooked according to the tradition of the Mediterranean people. You should not forget to use Mediterranean herbs and spices in every meal you make so that you would add the necessary taste and smell to your dish. Herbs may substitute salt in many cases and including them in your recipes ensures the proper blending of ingredients giving your Mediterranean food a different and certainly superior dimension.