Regional meats, seafood and produce provide the potent flavor combinations that comprise the main characteristics of Mediterranean cuisine.
What Makes a Dish Mediterranean?
Mediterranean food consists of entrees like fish and white meat paired with combinations of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Olive oil is an integral part of traditional Mediterranean dishes, and it takes the place of butter or vegetable oil in the cooking process.
Red meat isn’t a regular part of traditional Mediterranean eating, and is usually consumed only once or twice a month, and on special occasions. When it’s incorporated into Mediterranean dishes it’s usually in the form of lamb or goat meat.
Red wines such as malbec, Sangiovese and Nebbiolio are the wines of choice in the Mediterranean diet. When consumed in moderation, red wine can improve cholesterol levels. This drink contains antioxidants that work to fight cancer and improve overall heart health. The tannins in red wine also contains a compound called resveratrol, which is believed to improve the health of blood vessels.
The Mediterranean Diet
Most healthy diets include a combination of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and other white meats, and limit unhealthy saturated and trans fats. The Mediterranean diet goes a step further by placing emphasis on omega-3 fatty acids and other sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These “good” fats lower the risk of disease and help contribute to overall heart health.
The traditional Mediterranean diet has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. An analysis of over 1.5 million adults showed that following a strict Mediterranean diet lead to reduced risk of:
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Cardiovascular disease
• Parkinson’s disease.
Other Types of Mediterranean Cuisine
Many countries border the Mediterranean Sea in addition to Greece and Italy. Gibraltar is famous for its seafood, while Turkey is known for its simple eastern Mediterranean recipes that use high-quality local ingredients like honey, olives, yogurt and cheese. Spain has many vineyards that specialize in red wine, and Cypricot salad, from Cyprus, is a well-known recipe that utilizes grilled chicken, kalamata olives and fresh greens.
With so many countries and cultures to choose from, traditional Mediterranean dishes run the gamut from falafel to fig pudding. One aspect they all have in common in an emphasis on seafood.
If you’re interested in experiencing the food of many cultures while improving your overall health, you may want to learn about the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet.