Mediterranean diet and olive oil: Good feeding, good health

Es un hecho que las enfermedades cardiovasculares son el asesino número 1 de las personas con diabetes, pues estas desarrollan entre 2 y 4 veces más este tipo de enfermedades, esto ha sido nuevamente demostrado en el estudio ACCORD (Study Looks at Heart Disease Risk).
Healthy advantages of the Mediterranean Diet

Several scientific evidences show the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean Diet in the reduction of risks associated with a great quantity of very common illnesses in western populations.

In fact, there are evidences about how the Mediterranean Diet, with the olive oil as the principal source of fat, helps to protect against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some types of cancer such as the breast and colon ones.

The Mediterranean Diet helps to exercise a protection against these risks on decreasing the levels of cholesterol in blood and reducing the blood pressure, avoiding this way the presence of clots of blood and protecting against the free radicals.

What the Mediterranean Diet is

The phrase Mediterranean Diet is a reflection of the typical food habits in some Mediterranean regions, such as Spain, Crete, some other places in Greece and the south of Italy.

In the sixties some investigators discovered that the life expectancy of these populations was high in comparison with the one in the rest of the world, whereas the rates of coronary diseases some types of cancer and other chronic diseases closely related to diet were lower.

The traditional Mediterranean Diet has centuries of tradition but it is not necessarily practiced in their origin countries. However, it can be easily incorporated in modern lifestyles by those people who want to improve their diet just being traditional in its region or being adapted to a diet of any other country.

This adaptation creates the diet to the Mediterranean style that can be applied in whole Europe to be adapted to our current society, which worships fast food.
What the Mediterranean Diet consists of

The Mediterranean Diet includes a great variety of food prepared in a very simple and adaptable way to the personal tastes and local food. The variety of foods is one of the most important aspects in its healthy properties.

The Mediterranean Diet consists of:

•  A great variety of fruits, vegetables, salad and pulses.
Abundance of food high in carbohydrates and fiber, such as bread, pasta, rice, cereals and potatoes.
Dairy products especially cheeses, and yogurts with moderation.
Fish, including blue fish, poultry and lean meat moderately.
Olive oil as the main source of fat.
Dietetic fats

Why fats are so important

A healthy diet should provide a balanced contribution of fats. Fats are necessary for our health and well being as they provide energy to our organism.

They also improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E y KB) at the same time they assure an appropriate ingestion of essential fatty acids.

The essential fatty acids are indispensable for a good state of health but the organism cannot synthesize them and therefore, they must be given through a diet.

And finally, though no less important, fats make food tastier.

Fats: How many and which

According to the recommendations of several health national and international organizations, fats in a balanced diet must represent about the 35% providing that this contribution is at the expense of the fatty monounsaturated acids (there are not restrictions for children under two). This means that a diet of 2000 Kcal. can include approximately 70 grams of total fat.

Apart from the quantity, the quality of fats is also important. In fact, fats are made up of fatty acids very different between them, the saturated fatty acids (AGS) that tend to raise specially the "bad" cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and the fatty unsaturated ones (Monounsaturated or AGM and Polyunsaturated or AGP) that tend to decrease its level. For this reason and other differences, experts suggest that the ideal content of the fatty acids of the diet should be: the AGS of 7-10% of the whole of the calories, the AGPI must not exceed 7% whereas the AGMI must range between 15% and 20%.

The AGS are provided specially from food of animal origin and coconut and palm oil. The AGPI are found in oils and seeds such as Soya oil, maize and sunflower oil and in nuts. The AGMI are mostly found in the olive oil and other vegetable oils.

The cholesterol given by food is also important as it may affect the levels of cholesterol in blood. The consumption of cholesterol in a diet cannot be higher than 300 mg. a day. This kind of cholesterol is only found in food of animal origin, especially in the egg yolk and liver.
Olive oil

The olive oil is the typical fat of the Mediterranean Diet; it contains a great quantity of fat monounsaturated acid, the oleic acid.

This oleic acid helps to decrease the levels of "bad" cholesterol (LDL Cholesterol) and to maintain the levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL Cholesterol) obtaining a good balance between both. It is quickly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates the production of bile, so important for the digestive function. The olive oil also contains polyunsaturated fatty acids being good and healthy for people all ages.

Cooking with olive oil

Olive oil is relatively stable compared with other unsaturated vegetable oils, which make it less capable of oxidation that might alter the characteristics of the oil.

This is due to a high content in AGMI (among them the oleic acid) and other natural antioxidants, including vitamin E.

Consequently, olive oil is good to cook so as to prepare dressings and sauces.
How to use the olive oil

It can be used in different ways: to dress salads, pasta, rice, soups with boiled and grilled meals such as meats, vegetables and to prepare sauces, pizza, vegetables and also pastry and cookies.

In a balanced diet the variation in the foods and the way of preparing them is really important. This makes food tastier and that’s another reason to choose the Mediterranean Diet.
Dr. R. Antuña de Alaiz
Educational Treatment Unit
education > treatment > nutrition