One diet that appears to represent a way of eating that provides significant protection against heart disease is the traditional Mediterranean diet. This term has a specific meaning; it does not mean simply Italian food. The Mediterranean diet reflects food patterns typical of Crete, parts of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy in the early 1960s. The traditional Mediterranean diet has shown tremendous benefits in fighting heart disease and cancer, as well as diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet has the following characteristics:
- It centers on an abundance of plant food, including fruit, vegetables, breads, pasta, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Foods are minimally processed and there is a focus on seasonal, fresh, and locally grown foods.
- Fresh fruit is the typical daily dessert.
- Sweets containing concentrated sugars or honey are consumed a few times per week at the most.
- Low-fat dairy products, principally cheese and yogurt, are consumed daily in low to moderate amounts.
- Fish is consumed on a regular basis.
- Poultry and eggs are consumed in moderate amounts, about one to four times weekly, or not at all.
- Red meat is consumed in small amounts, and infrequently.
- Olive oil is the principal source of fat.
- Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals.