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  • Is the Mediterranean Diet Italian?

    by Elizabeth Trementozzi

    Just hearing the simple words, Mediterranean diet, conjure up images of bright, colorful, flavorful and delicious recipes served somewhere along the Mediterranean Sea. One country which is very familiar to the Mediterranean diet is Italy. But is the Mediterranean Diet Italian? The answer is, in a way yes and no. This diet is more about eating principles not specific rules. The Italians happen to eat like this anyway and offer us a good blueprint to follow. This article will address the basic principles of this popular diet.

    The Mediterranean diet is not about counting calories. It's not about having a food chart on your refrigerator. It's not even a diet that says you can't eat what doesn't taste good, or require you to follow rules of deprivation.

    The Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet. It is also a well balanced diet. When you think Italian, or even Mediterranean, images of people who love food should be what comes to your mind. So how difficult can it be to follow their lead?

    Let's start by following a few principles:

    Red Meat
    Red meat such as beef or even buffalo is not a staple in any household. They do not freeze 10 lbs of beef in the freezer to be consumed within just a few weeks. When you need it, you go and buy what you need. Steaks on the grill, hamburgers and hot dogs, just simply are not the norm in Italy, as they are here in America. This is not to say that Italians do not eat meat. They eat plenty of poultry and they certainly love their sausage!

    If you tend to eat a lot of red meat, even just three hamburgers a day, you will need to cut this back to no more than one time a week. Don't worry, this is probably the hardest part for those following the diet who love meat.

    Beans
    Unfortunately, the idea of eating beans as a regular part of our diet has been lost over recent decades. Somewhat considered a poor man's ingredient, it is safe to say beans provide some of the richest sources of fiber and protein for the human body. You'll notice many vegetarians and vegans consume a lot of beans for this very reason.

    Beans can be easily incorporated into your recipes by adding them the pasta dishes, pasta salads, stews, soups, and salads.

    Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
    The key word here is " fresh" fruits and vegetables. Learn which vegetables and fruits are in season throughout the year. For example, peaches and fresh pear are best in the summer months, while broccoli and cauliflower are considered winter vegetables. When you buy fresh fruits and vegetables they will have more flavor and will be more enjoyable than those which are not fresh.

    Keep in mind you can freeze summer vegetables to use in the wintertime, such as zucchini, squash, blueberries, and strawberries. You can also freeze herbs such as basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and oregano, among others.

    Grains
    Another term used to describe grains is cereals. These will often be found in food sources such as breads and pastas. Specific examples of grains would be wheat flour, rice, and polenta. It is important to understand however, that some grains such as wheat can also be high in carbohydrates. This diet does not mean you can eat any type of bread you wish, but instead concentrate on eating healthy breads that are not stripped of their nutritional values. It typically means sticking to whole wheat breads or multigrain breads.

    Seafood
    Incorporate having healthy fish such as salmon or tuna into your meals at least once a week. Choosing fish which are high in omega-3 is advantageous to your health. Omega three is an essential fatty acid important for brain function and cognitive abilities. It also helps with reducing inflammation.

    Low Amounts of Dairy
    Mediterranean's do not drink a lot of milk. However they do love their cheeses. It is important to reduce your intake of dairy, but you do not have to eliminate it all together. One easy way to reduce dairy intake, is to cut back on the use of butter as a cooking ingredient. Using olive oil, which is high in omega three, contains no hydrogenated oils, and is lower in saturated fat, you are able to cook and sauté your vegetables in a healthier way for your recipes. If you must use butter for cooking try using a mix of half butter and half olive oil. If concerned that the flavor of the olive oil may be overpowering try using pure olive oil which has a less intense flavor as the extra virgin olive oil.

    Following some of these basic principles you will be well on your way to following a Mediterranean diet without feeling like you are on a diet. For all you know, you just may be following a Mediterranean diet without even realizing it. Perhaps you just simply need to make a few tweaks to what and how much you are already consuming. Either way, this is one diet which everyone can enjoy.


    About the author: This article was contributed by SimpleItalianCooking an Italian cooking website featuring recipes and reviews on Italian products like the Delonghi gelato machine and the Cuisinart dough mixer.

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