The term "Mediterranean diet", Was born in the 1950s from the studies of prof. Ancel Benjamin Keys (1904–2004), the American scholar who demonstrated the positive role of the diet and lifestyle of the Mediterranean peoples on cardiovascular health, compared to other food traditions (Video). Prof. Keys with his studies he had come to the conclusion that a diet based on bread, pasta, fruit, vegetables, many legumes, extra-virgin olive oil, fish and very little meat was responsible for the extraordinary beneficial effect on the local population.
The historical roots of this food tradition are to be found in the fusion of the cultures of two great civilizations of the past, the Etruscans (in Tuscany and in part of Lazio and Umbria), and the Greeks (geographical area of southern Italy called Magna Grecia). .
For this reason, the Mediterranean diet as a nutritional model finds its inspiration not only in Italian food models but also in other countries of the Mediterranean basin such as Greece, Spain and Morocco (Video).
Since 2010, the Mediterranean diet has been considered an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO.
According to UNESCO, "the Mediterranean diet represents a set of skills, knowledge, practices and traditions ranging from landscape to table, including crops, harvesting, fishing, conservation, transformation, preparation and, in particular, the food consumption.
It promotes social interaction, since the common meal is the basis of the social customs and holidays shared by a given community, and has given rise to a remarkable body of knowledge, songs, maxims, tales and legends. respecting the territory and biodiversity, and guarantees the conservation and development of traditional activities and trades connected to fishing and "agriculture in the Mediterranean communities".
Many scientific studies have shown a possible association between following a diet inspired by the Mediterranean diet and a reduction in the risk of mortality and the appearance of chronic-degenerative diseases such as, for example, cardiovascular diseases (read the Bufala).
Improving the quality of our diet (read the Bufala), returning to the typical Mediterranean habits, is able to significantly increase the duration and quality of our life.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by:
- abundance of foods of plant origin such as bread, pasta, barley, spelled, rice and other cereals (read the Bufala), preferably wholemeal, vegetables, salads, legumes, fresh and dried fruit
- moderate consumption of foods of animal origin such as fish, white meat, dairy products and eggs
- modest quantities of red meat
- extra virgin olive oil as a primary source of fats, replacing butter and other animal fats
- sweets only occasionally
The Mediterranean diet is also characterized by the type of preparation to which these foods are subjected, favoring cooking in a pan, steamed or in the oven.
An important feature of the typical foods of the Mediterranean diet is that they are "suitable for the preparation of single dishes, in other words dishes capable of ensuring on their own all the nutrients that are normally provided by a" first "and a" second "dish consumed separately Typical examples:
- pasta with beans (or chickpeas, or peas, or lentils ...)
- dry pasta with meat and cheese dressing
- minestrone and cereal soups with vegetable oil and grated cheese
- Neapolitan pizza with mozzarella and anchovies, etc.
A meal prepared in this way has the adequate requirements to meet the body's needs in carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, mineral salts and fiber; the mere addition of fresh vegetables and fruit is sufficient to make a complete meal, balanced from the point of nutritionally and cheaper.
The transition from the original Mediterranean diet to Italian cuisine, with its typical dishes, has been gradual and, while maintaining its characteristic foods as basic ingredients in the various recipes, the way of preparing, dressing and cooking them has changed, also introducing new imported foods. from other countries.
It is for this reason that many of the dishes today characteristic of the traditional Italian cuisine they do not meet the basic requirements of the Mediterranean diet. Just think of dishes such as lasagna, stuffed pasta, many meat and vegetable-based preparations that require abundant use of condiments and fried foods.
In 2009 Mediterranean scientists and exponents of international institutions discussed the evolution of the Mediterranean diet and developed the new food pyramid for the modern Mediterranean diet (Parma, III International Conference of the International Interuniversity Center for Studies on Mediterranean Food Cultures, CIISCAM, in collaboration with the National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition, INRAN).
It is a Mediterranean diet revisited under the banner of modernity and well-being without neglecting, however, the different cultural and religious traditions and the different national identities.
The new pyramid of the modern Mediterranean diet, aimed at all individuals aged between 18 and 65, takes into account the evolution of times and society, highlighting the basic importance of physical activity, conviviality at the table, 'habit of drinking water and suggesting favoring the consumption of seasonal and locally sourced foods.
NHS Choices. What is a Mediterranean diet? (English)
Mayo Clinic. Mediterranean diet for heart health (English)
Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of the Agricultural Economy (CREA). Guidelines for healthy eating 2018
Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of the Agricultural Economy (CREA). Guidelines for healthy eating. Scientific dossier. 2017 Edition