What is a Mediterranean Diet?
Added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013, the Mediterranean diet has been named the overall best diet for the third year in a row. Voted the best diet for 2020 by a panel of 25 health and nutrition professionals.
The Mediterranean diet; "Involves a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking and particularly the sharing and consumption of food,” as described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Enjoy food in a healthy way, is the mentality behind the Mediterranean diet. Based on the consumption of olive oil, vegetables and fresh seasonal products, the Mediterranean diet is an example to follow as far as eating is concerned – as well as being recommended by the doctor, it is extremely tasty.
The Mediterranean diet is based on a balanced and complete diet following principles such as simple preparation and the use of fresh, local products, and if possible, seasonal.
In countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Morocco, Portugal and Spain you can enjoy the flavours of Mediterranean food in restaurants and discover the products in local markets. However, the Mediterranean diet varies by country and region.
Olive oil is the main protagonist of the Mediterranean diet. As well as adding a unique flavour and aroma, it is recommended for its health benefits. Olive oil consumption has been linked with better cardiovascular health. Spain is one of the main producers of olive oil, especially in the regions of Andalusia and Catalonia.
In order to enjoy its real flavour, we suggest a salad with an olive oil dressing, or recipes such as gazpacho and salmorejo (cold soup made with tomato and bread).
The Mediterranean diet is essentially based on fruit, vegetables, pulses and dried fruit and nuts. They are bursting with vitamins and fibre, and Spain also stands out for their production. Some of the most outstanding fertile agricultural regions are in Navarre, Andalusia, Murcia, Balearic Islands and Region of Valencia. The latter is well-known for its citrus fruits. Other essential fruit includes bananas from the Canary Islands, strawberries from Huelva and Aranjuez (Madrid), Vinalopó grapes, and peaches from Calanda (Aragon), amongst others.
The Mediterranean diet also recommends consuming products derived from cereals, such as rice, as a good source of energy.
Other products in the Mediterranean diet are dairy products. The regions in the north of Spain are well known for their milk and dairy products, with traditional desserts, such as cuajada (type of curd cheese) and rice pudding.
Cheese also complements dishes very often, and some of them are especially tasty, such as the Manchego (Castile-La Mancha), Burgos (Castile-León), Cabrales (Asturias), Idiazábal (Basque Country), and Majorero (Canary Islands), etc.
Amongst the recommendations in the Mediterranean diet we find a moderate consumption of eggs, and blue fish and seafood at least once or twice a week.
Regarding fish, Spain is washed by the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea, so you can taste many types. Some of the most typical are anchovies (very common in Cantabria), cod (typical of the Basque Country), and “pescaíto frito” (fried fish) in Andalusia, and especially, seafood from Galicia.
Lastly, remember that drinking wine moderately, as part of the Mediterranean diet, is a very healthy habit. In Spain you can practise this with any of its tasty wines. One of the most internationally prestigious ones is Rioja, although there are many more to try.
Things to remember:
The Mediterranean diet is much more than a healthy gastronomic recommendation. It is a way of life that involves preparing food traditionally and enjoying it with friends and family, in a calm and relaxed environment. This is just one of the reasons why it has been awarded by the UNESCO.