kythera family kythera family
  

Home Remedies

Culture > Home Remedies > Mediterranean diet: Maintaining health

8148: Culture > Home Remedies

submitted by Odyssey Magazine on 16.09.2005

Mediterranean diet: Maintaining health

ODYSSEY Magazine

September/October 2005

pp. 20-21

Reports & Comments

All that high-calorie olive oil is good for you

By Elena Paravantes

*Elena Paravantes, RD. is a Registered Clinical Dietitian/Nutritionist



It seems that lately, everywhere you look something is being said about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. And why not? Recognized as one of the healthiest diets in the world, it is not the creation of some doctor, but rather an eating lifestyle that has existed for cen­tunes. Followed originally by people living in the Mediterranean region, today it could
- and should — be followed by everyone, regardless of where they live.

It all started when University of Min­nesota Physiologist Ancel Keys studied the diets and habits of seven countries in the 1950s, including the US, Japan, and Greece. He found that individuals from Greece had the lowest rates of heart dis­ease and lived the longest, even though they had a high intake of fat. Interest con­tinued to grow and today there is an in­creasing bo~1y of evidence that the diet can prevent numerous ailments from heart dis­ease to cancer. In 1993, Dr. Antonia Tri­chopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Preventative Medicine and Nutrition at the University of Athens Medical School and Director of WHO Collaborating Center for Nutrition in Greece, developed the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid under the auspices of Harvard University with Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Cancer Prevention and Professor of Epidemiology at the De-partment of Epidemiology of the Harvard School of Public Health, And the rest, as they say, is history: Mediterranean restaurants soon started popping up everywhere, and olive oil became a house­hold name.

“The Mediterranean Diet” does not refer to a specific diet but to the dietary habits of inhabitants of countries in the Mediterranean region. We all think of olive oil when we hear the term, but in fact it is a lot of other things. It is characterized by a high intake of veg­etables, fruits and complex carbohydrates, with the main source of fat being olive oil. As a result, it is rich in fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants. It is not a vegetarian diet, as red meat is something to be enjoyed once a month, but its main sources of protein are beans and local fatty fish such as sardines and anchovies.

In the Greek diet there are dishes known as ladera — oil dishes. These may sound fattening and well.., oily, but in fact they are among the most important components of the Greek diet. Ladera are vegetable main dishes in which the vegetables are cooked in oil and often tomato sauce. According to Dr. Tnichopoulou, these give the Greeks the advantage of being able to consume large amounts of vegeta­bles easily, therefore fulfilling the often elu­sive ‘five servings a day’ requirement. “Whereas vegetables in other countries are most often served as a side salad, in Greece we consume vegetables as a main dish. We cook the vegetables, and that way it is pos­sible to consume foods such as eggplant and okra which would otherwise not be consumed raw”, Trichopoulou explains.

Another important element of the diet is the fact that several herbs and spices are used in preparing most Greek dishes. “It is not enough to just add oil to a dish; you must mix in garlic, onion and parsley among other ingredients” says Tn­chopoulou. These foods contain several biochemical substances which play an im­portant role in protecting the body from chronic disease. As for wine, according to Dr. Tn­chopoulou its purpose is to make a meal more pleasurable and should only be consumed with food, by adults and with company. “Wine should be consumed to enjoy life, not to forget it” she adds.

Olive oil is the main feature of the Greek Mediterranean diet. Al­though it has many health benefits, it also has one disadvantage: a high number of calories, causing many people to avoid it for fear of gaining weight. This is expected considering that Greece has one of the highest rates of childhood — and adult — obesity in Europe. How­ever, Dr. Trichopoulou insists that there has been a misunderstand­ing over the role of oil in the rise of obesity in Mediterranean coun­tries It is the result of inadequate physical activity and a surplus of calories. Certainly, olive oil has many calories, but a diet can be fol­lowed that can include oil while staying within normal limits calorie-wise This can be accomplished by combining olive oil with vegeta­bles therefore achieving a medium caloric level dish”, she notes.

Contrary to popular belief, the Mediterranean diet is not a low fat diet — 40% of the calories come from fat, much higher corn-pared to the 30% recommended in a conventional diet — so can this be too much fat? Not according to Tn­chopoulou, as long as the fat comes from olive oil. “The idea of lowering your fat intake did not concern the people of the Mediterranean. It was the Northern Europeans who con­sumed large amounts of saturated fat in but­ter, high fat meat and cheese. The use of olive oil can be limited but up to a point where the food is still tasteful”.

According to Dr. Tnichopoulou, the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet are a result of consumption of all the foods rather then specific foods. “The entire dietary schema is much more important than the individual components. The significant effects are seen when the Mediterranean diet is followed as a whole,” she points out.

Research shows that the Mediterranean diet is ideal for an indi­vidual with an increased risk of heart disease. A recent study by Greek researchers showed that individuals suffering from coronary artery disease have a 27% lower risk of mortality when they follow a Mediterranean diet.

The closer an individual follows the Mediterranean diet, the longer he/she will live, even if they do not live in the Mediterranean region. This has been shown by numerous studies, and most recent­ly by the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), in which researchers gathered information on the nutritional habits of almost 75,000 people in nine countries. Participants were graded ac­cording to how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet and a high score reflected a high compliance with the diet. For every two-point increase, there was an 8% reduction in mortality.

Due to the high intake of fiber, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, the Mediterranean diet has also been shown to lower the risk of type II diabetes. According to researchers from Cam­bridge University, a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, rice and pasta) correlates with low blood sug­an levels.

Numerous studies have shown that individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet run a lower risk of cancer, particularly prostate, breast and colon cancer. It is thought that this is due to the numer­ous protective substances in the diet, such as selenium, vitamins E and C, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber, as well as polyphenols from olive oil, nesvetrol from wine and antioxidants found in the com­monly used herbs oregano and garlic.


The Hellenic Ministry of Health and the Supreme Scientific Health Council have developed the following guidelines:

Daily

Whole grain products............................................. 8 Servings
Fruit..................................................................... 3 Servings
Vegetables and collard greens................................ 6 Servings
Dairy.................................................................... 2 servings
Olive Oil........................................As the main added lipid

Weekly

Fish.............................................5-6 Servings
Poultry.............................................4 Servings
Olives, Beans, Nuts.....................................3 -4 Servings
Potatoes.............................................3 Servings
Eggs.............................................3 Servings
Sweets.............................................3 Servings

Monthly

Red Meat.............................................4 Servings

Greek Recipes for Beginners

Lentil Soup


• 100 grams lentils
• 1 Bay leaf
• 1 sliced onion
• 1 garlic clove
• 2 tablespoons oilve oil
• Tomato
• 2 ½ cups water
• Vinegar
• Salt/Pepper

Soak the lentils in water for 30 minutes. Boil the lentils with water just enough to cover them with the bay leaf for 30 minutes.
Add the onion, garlic tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve with vinegar.

Makes 2 servings

Rice with Spinach

• 500 grams spinach
• 2 ½ tablespoons oilve oil
• ½ diced onion
• 2/3 cup water
• 1/3 cup rice
• Salt/Pepper
• Lemon

Wash the spinach, warm in a pot until slightly wilted and strain.
Sauté the onion, add the spinach, water, salt and pepper.
When it comes to a boil, add the rice, and simmer until rice is ready.
Serve with lemon.

Green Beans in Oil

• 500 grams green beans
• 1 sliced onion
• ½ cup olive oil
• 250 grams tomatoes (fresh or canned)with their juice.
• Parsley
• Salt/Pepper

Sauté the onions for a few minutes in large pot with oil.
Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, parsley and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the green beans and let them simmer until soft and tender.
Serve with feta cheese.

Makes 2 servings


When Published: bi-monthly
Publisher: Odyssey Magazine
Available: (See, below).
Description:

Odyssey magazine is a brilliant magazine, originating in Greece, which chronicles people, places and events of the Greek Diaspora.

Greece:

Odyssey
Zephyr Publications S.A
Aetideon 13, Holargos 155 61
Athens
Greece

USA:

Odyssey Magazine
PO Box 3000
Denville
NJ 07834-9347
USA

Australia:

Odyssey Magazine
P.O. Box 187
Newtown
NSW 2042
Australia

Canada:

Odyssey Magazine
50 McIntosh Drive, Suite 242
Markham, Ontario
L3R 9T3 Canada

email subscriptions:

subscribe@odyssey.gr

Web Address:

http://www.odyssey.gr

Leave a comment