While it first became popular as a heart health diet,Â the role of the Mediterranean diet seems to be changing. In the past few decades, it has been hypothesized that some people in the Mediterranean, particularly those from the island of Crete, had a significantly longer life expectancy than elsewhere in the world. A diet such as theirs seemed to have the ability to increase both fitness and longevity.
The Mediterranean diet is very high in vegetables, meat, pasta, beans, cereals, olive oil and wine. There is a sharp decrease of sweets, starches, and saturated fats compared to Western diets. In addition, the Mediterranean area is geographically located to hit the jackpot for agricultural diversity. Located as it is between Europe and Africa and being the end destination of trade routes to and from the Far East, the Mediterranean area has been home to civilizations stretching back to the dawn of history.
Whenever travelers from the area discovered a new, nourishing food from another area, they brought it back home with them to cultivate. The Mediterranean area, then, represents the “best of the best” of agriculture since mankind first tilled the soil.
Today it has become known as a weight loss diet. Research has shown that the more closely subjects followed the diet, the lower their body fat levels became. In part, this is due to the tendency of foods in the region to each lend an excellent share of nutrition value per calorie, eliminating empty calories.
The Mediterranean diet includes far less of foods such as pastas, cheeses, red meats, milk and lard compared to a common European diet. For one thing, it turns out to blow the myth of the Atkin’s diet away – the Mediterranean eat just as many carbs as anybody else, but the difference is that it isn’t all processed flour and refined starch. Hence, fewer empty calories.
It may yet turn out that the Mediterranean region, being at the “center of the world” historically, has become a fertile evolutionary proving ground. As time has gone on, the selection of foods has been refined, with the various people of the area adapting the local agriculture to include only the best choices of food. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that evolution has shown a bias for something being liked and cultivated by people!
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