The Mediterranean diet is typical of the countries in the Mediterranean area and many studies have associated it with countless health benefits, especially in terms of the prevention of tumours, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. In 2010 UNESCO recognized the Mediterranean diet as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The Mediterranean diet was discovered by the American scientist Ancel Keys, who directed the study Seven Countries and compared the diet of 7 countries: Finland, USA, Japan, Greece, Italy, Holland and Yugoslavia. Thence, he discovered that there was a greater risk of diabetes and other diseases in those countries which aren’t situated in the Mediterranean area.
It is very important to follow this diet as it turns out to be one of the most balanced. Its beneficial effects are linked to many factors. Firstly, food low in calories such as vegetables, fruit, cereals and legumes help maintain a healthy weight and ensure a fiber intake that protects against many chronic diseases. Secondly, the Mediterranean diet is characterized by a low fat content and a high intake of antioxidants, which counteract the harmful effects of free radicals, for example the polyphenols of extra virgin olive oil and the lycopene of tomato. In conclusion, most of the studies have shown Mediterranean diet’s effectiveness in sustaining a good state of general health. It has been widely proven how it reduces the incidence of different cancers, diabetes, heart attack, atherosclerosis, hypertension, digestive diseases and stops metabolic syndrome, which is one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases. It is even recommended in pregnancy, because it helps to contain weight gain, protecting women from the risk of metabolic complications, like gestational diabetes, which can have serious consequences both for her and the baby.
The Mediterranean diet is summarized by the food pyramid, which gives indications on how to correctly combine the foods, suggesting the amount and frequency of consumption. Products to be consumed in greater quantities are at the base of the pyramid and those one to be consumed with moderation are on top.