Holistic Health Tips
The Truth about the Mediterranean Diet (MD)
By Tom Martin
*The following post is meant for educational purposes only and is not meant to advise, diagnose, or treat any medical condition. This information is not meant to replace any medical advice or relationship with a licensed medical professional.*
The Mediterranean diet (MD) came into play starting with the supposed “French Paradox” the fact that the French eat more saturated fats than our American Heart Association (AHA) would like to you think is healthy, yet the French suffer far less heart disease. First they assumed (using no science) that it was red wine. The assumptions continued until they could construct the concept of the MD and that it was the answer to health problems.
Here is the Mayo Clinic’s definition of the diet:
“The Mediterranean diet emphasizes: Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil. Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.”
As someone who has traveled and eaten extensively in the Mediterranean, I can assure you that these are part of but NOT the principle elements of their diet.
If there is any one word to describe the MD it would be Balance. Balance in all things. The second word I would use is Real or authentic, their foods are natural and not processed.
Reviewing the “definition” I first take issue with the statement that the diet is primarily “plant-based.” That is far from the truth. Their diet includes red meats, organ meats and lots of fish. The red meats are primarily lamb and beef, both naturally raised in pastures eating grass rather than the GMO corn meal that is fed to livestock in the US.
The primary two fish eaten are sardines and anchovies. Both of these fish are high in omega-3 oils and low in toxins such as mercury.
Organ meats, including kidneys, liver, brains, sweetbreads (the thymus or pancreas), and so forth, are prized for their nutrient-dense qualities, in spite of being high in saturated fats.
Vegetables that are consumed are organic and from local sources, often grown in their own gardens.
Cheeses are made from raw (non-pasteurized/non-homogenized), whole-fat milk from pasture-fed cows. Their diet is also very low in non-vegetables carbohydrates and sugars.
Nothing is “low-fat” in the MD. Yogurt is a staple food and is made from raw, whole fat, milk from grass, pasture-fed cows.
People in the Mediterranean region still regularly consume fermented foods. This leads to good gut health, good digestion and hence, better overall health.
Their diet contains NO vegetable oils such as corn, soy, canola, etc.
It is a complete myth that the Mediterranean region does not use salt. The salt used in the region is primarily Celtic sea salt, which also provides nutrition far beyond the mainly chemical salt sold on supermarket shelves in the US. Herbs that are used are also fresh and rarely dried. Please be aware that salt is necessary to sustain human life. But bad salt (from the supermarket) truly is bad for you, processed foods and fast foods are high in this type of “salt” and are therefore, not good for your health.
Meal portions throughout this region are also much smaller than in the US. They may have four to six courses per meal, but the total amount of food consumed is far less than an American will eat in one course at Outback Steakhouse, for example.
Butter is used as plentifully as olive oil.
Speaking of olive oil – they use true extra virgin olive oil, not the blended and bastardized oils sold in the US and labeled as extra virgin. These oils are actually dangerous to your health. My source of 100% unblended extra virgin olive oil is Royal Petra Imports (RoyalPetraImports.com). Their oil is freshly imported from Jordan, bottled and shipped in cool weather to retain all of the nutrition and health benefits. It costs more, but if you are not using the real thing, you are also not getting the benefits you seek.
There is a movement to convince all of us that a vegetarian, non-meat lifestyle is healty. From the Mediterranean Diet to the China Study, each “study” tries to convince us that our lives would be better if we didn’t eat meat. Sorry, the statistics just don’t support that conclusion.
Yes, those living in the Mediterranean region are far healthier than the average American eating the standard American diet (SAD), but eating only cherry-picked pieces of the diet will not lead to better health for Americans. It is a total concept in diet and health.
My primary source for a truly healthful diet, one which will lead to less chronic illness is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It is loaded with outstanding health information as well as recipes. My own book Just Do This One Thing: A Guide to Chronic Good Health also outlines steps necessary for a healthier diet and life.