If you were to travel around the world you would find each country chooses their food in different ways. Cultures rely on different food groups and styles based on the influence of religion, what foods are available in an agricultural region and other lifestyle factors, like the amount of fast food and convenience items in the area.
Countries that border the Mediterranean Sea typify the Mediterranean diet, which is often praised for its health benefits.
To understand what this diet is made of, picture the food groups in a four-tiered pyramid.
The base and foundation layer focuses mostly on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, heart healthy nuts, olive oil and legumes (beans), along with herbs and spices. Each meal is centered on the foods of the bottom tier. The next tier up would be fish and seafood. Continuing up to an even smaller tier is poultry, eggs and dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt). The final and smallest tier at the top is red meat and sweets.
The main reason choosing your food this way comes as a benefit to you is due to the way it sets you up to nourish your body. By focusing on produce and whole grains for meals, individuals following the Mediterranean diet get in more servings of the fruits and vegetables they need and reduce the amount of high-calorie carb intake.
Eating a variety of produce for meals also ensures you are getting the essential vitamins and minerals.
Eating more lean sources of protein like fish and seafood on a regular basis and reducing red meat can help decrease fat content, provided it isn’t fried and smothered in butter when cooked. Using healthy oils as a substitute for butter can be a healthier alternative.
Lastly, people who follow this diet like to top off some of their meals with a sized glass of wine, which is said to have health benefits — sounds like a pretty sweet way to eat.
This is quite different from the typical American diet. Usually in the U.S., meals are based around the type of meat that is being served, often red meat. Red meat isn’t bad in small quantities, but it is good to have a variety of proteins coming from multiple sources in your diet.
If you’re looking for a change of pace in terms of diet, consider taking your stomach on a tour of the sunny coasts of the Mediterranean.