Primer on the Mediterranean Diet

Students today are known for their fondness of the latest trends. Get inspired with the June/July edition of School Nutrition and the latest Food Focus by Kelsey Casselbury, contributing editor. In “Map the Mediterranean with Mouth-Watering Menus,” Casselbury details the similarities of foods woven throughout countries that cup the Mediterranean Sea. By the end of her tantalizing descriptions of hummus, tabbouleh olives and lamb, your mouth will surely be watering and your mind will be bursting with ideas.

In this bonus online content, get a glimpse of the inner workings of the Mediterranean diet and the three main components therein.

Understanding the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean cuisine is at the heart of the Mediterranean diet, an approach to healthy eating that emphasizes consumption of many of the region’s traditional ingredients. Proponents of this diet advocate eating greater amounts of olive oil, legumes, fruits and vegetables, along with moderate consumption of fish, cheese, yogurt and wine and a low intake of non-fish meat products.

Research supports the idea that the Mediterranean diet decreases the risk of heart disease and early death, possibly because of the high consumption of olive oil. There’s also preliminary evidence that it could decrease the potential for cancer, neurodegeneration and other chronic diseases. Remember, however, that it’s always important to do thorough research and consult your own health care professionals before adopting a new diet.

The Mediterranean Triad

The Mediterranean’s warm climate is ideal for the growth of grapes, olives and wheat, which make these three ingredients the backbone of Mediterranean cooking.

Olives. The use of olive oil is rampant—much more so than butter or any other type of fat that could be used for cooking. However, whole olives are featured prominently, too, both for snacking and as an ingredient in some regional dishes.

Grapes. Around the Mediterranean, the primary use of grapes is to produce wine. But some area cultures also use grapes in the form of raisins to sweeten up salads and breads, as well as for snacking.

Wheat. This grain is a staple in Mediterranean cooking, essential for pasta in Italy, as well as couscous and flatbreads in eastern regions.

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