It is now established that the Mediterranean diet has the best nutritional values thanks to its mix of substances that actively influence our body.
On November 16, 2010, Unesco added the Mediterranean Diet in the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. This is because more and more scientific studies link adherence to the Mediterranean Diet to a lower cause of mortality. Analyzing the research, it turns out to be a valid ally in fighting numerous diseases such as diabetes, obesity, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases and oncological and neurodegenerative diseases. Unfortunately, these are increasingly protagonists in modern societies, they have in common immune system alterations and chronic and uncontrolled inflammatory states, often caused by unbalanced and unhealthy diets.
The Mediterranean Diet should not be seen as a simple set of foods with the aim of providing the calories we need, but as an important mix of substances that actively influence our body. The foods that characterize it are rich sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, provide the right amount of macro and micronutrients and guarantee the correct diversity of bacteria that live in symbiosis with us, thus maintaining the proper functioning of the body.
Teams of researchers from all over the world are minutely analyzing the foods of the Mediterranean diet and the results are very promising.
The Mediterranean diet is in fact characterized, among other things, by:
- An optimal supply of “good” fats, given by a large consumption of fish and olive oil, thus increasing the use of unsaturated fats and especially Omega3, useful for maintaining normal levels of triglycerides in the blood and a normal blood pressure and contributing to normal heart function;
- A high consumption of fruit and vegetables, sources of polyphenols, flavonoids, terpenoids, anthocyanins, carotenoids, vitamins and minerals, some with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. In fruits and vegetables we find several vitamins including: i) the B vitamins, useful for reducing tiredness and fatigue, normal energy-yielding metabolism and normal functioning of the nervous and immune systems; ii) vitamin C and vitamin E, among which multiple functions stand out that of contributing to the protection of cells from oxidative stress;
- An improvement in the complexity, and therefore composition, of intestinal bacteria, thanks to a high intake of prebiotic substances (resistant starch, inulin, fruit-oligosaccharides) deriving from fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
In recent decades, the eating habits of the countries of the Mediterranean basin have increasingly lost the ancient food identity that characterized them. There has been a constant decrease in the consumption of fruit and vegetables, legumes have been replaced with a high intake of refined cereals, the consumption of fish reduced to make room for red meat. Olive oil has also been partially substituted to make way for butter and margarine. The situation was also worsened by the nutritional depletion of food, caused by modern techniques of growing, storing and cooking food. All this has led the Mediterranean populations to go from being those who live the longest, from which to take example, to having the highest rate of overweight and obesity in Europe, thus increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular, diabetic, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
A change in eating habits is necessary to provide our body with that mix of natural substances that have nourished the health of the Mediterranean populations for millennia.