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Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The below blog is written by Lavanya Sundararajan, Team Leader, Peninsula Health Falls Prevention Service.

The April Falls Week special presentation on “Eating for health and longevity with Mediterranean Diet” by Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, Head of School of Allied Health and Professor of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Latrobe University was attended by staff from many sites across Peninsula Health.  

Here are some of the key take home messages from this talk:

The Mediterranean Diet is not just a “diet” but a cuisine and lifestyle based on diet and lifestyle of communities in the Mediterranean basin including Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco and Portugal. The cuisine’s values are hospitality, neighbourliness, intercultural dialogue and creativity with respect for diversity. 

The traditional Mediterranean Diet is a predominantly plant based diet that is composed of cereals, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, legumes, moderate red wine, fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood. It has a 4:1 Plant to Animal Food Ratio. It is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich, with a low environmental footprint and is economically accessible! It is high in Omega 3 fats from a range of sources including fatty fish and seafood, walnuts, free range eggs, pumpkin seeds, free range goat, wild edible leafy greens and offal.

It has been proven to reduce the risk of developing dementia, heart disease and diabetes and to aid in reversal of fatty liver, depression and anxiety and in sustained weight loss. It also improves blood pressure and cholesterol profile.

Professor Itsiopoulos’ tips for translating the traditional Mediterranean Diet to our diet are presented below as her 10 commandments:

    1. Extra Virgin Olive oil as the main added fat! (Approximately 60ml per day)
    2. Vegetables /salads with every main meal (> 400g per day) *100g tomato/100g leafy green 
      Tip: Use herbs and spices to flavour foods
    3. Legumes twice per week (250g/serve)
    4. Fish/seafood twice a week (150g/serve)
    5. Meat/Chicken less often in small portions
    6. Wholegrain sourdough breads
    7. Fresh fruit everyday
    8. Fermented dairy every day “yoghurt”
    9. Nuts everyday 30g per day
    10. Wine in moderation, always with meals