The North European lifestyle is not always the healthiest. Most people live in cities, work in offices, travel in cars and encounter stress on a daily basis. As a result, heart disease is the most common cause of death (as well as premature death) in the UK. As many as 1 in 5 men and 1 in 6 women die from heart disease every year.
By contrast, those on Sorrento holidays or touring the Greek Islands may have noticed that Mediterranean populations tend to look healthier and happier, right into their old age. Their secret? The Mediterranean diet. Studies have shown that dietary habits originating from favourite holiday destinations like Italy actually help reduce the risk of heart-related deaths and also mental health problems like Alzheimer’s disease.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, peas, beans and grains. It includes moderate amounts of chicken and fish but very little red meat. Most of the fat consumed in a Mediterranean diet is unsaturated as it comes primarily from olive oil and nuts. If you’ve ever heard of the elusive ‘good fats’,these are them. This diet even includes red wine, which has been proven to have health benefits, when consumed in small amounts.
The Mediterranean diet is incredibly easy to follow and when combined with moderate exercise and no smoking, followers will see what all the fuss is about. Cuisine from Mediterranean countries relies on herbs and other seasonings rather than excess salt, meaning the taste is more natural and flavoursome.
If you want to follow your own version, a good tip is to use locally sourced produce and tailor it to your needs. Up your in-take of fruit and vegetables, and snack on nuts and seeds when you’re hungry. Replace butter with olive oil, even on bread and use low-fat dairy products. Finally, swap the red meat for fish: you should try to eat fresh fish at least twice a week.
Rather than a strict set of recipes or specific food products, this diet is about well-proportioned meals and fresh, untempered ingredients. Once you’ve started making these small changes, benefits can include higher energy levels, boost in mood and a general healthier feeling.