We have all heard and read about the Mediterranean Diet, which seems to be so popular in newspapers, magazines and especially diet books. Spain is one of more than a dozen countries on the Mediterranean Sea, enjoying lots of sunshine. Therefore, Spanish food contains a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and nuts, a huge selection fish from the Atlantic and Mediterranean, as well as red meat and pork. Although each Mediterranean country has its own cuisine and unique dietary customs, there are general characteristics that are the same throughout the Mediterranean, including Spain:
- Fresh fruits & Vegetables, bread, potatoes, nuts, and beans are eaten daily in large quantities.
- Olive oil is the primary source of fat, which is monounsaturated fat (sometimes called the “good fats”) and does not raise blood cholesterol in the same way that saturated fats and trans fats do.
- Fish is eaten several times a week and contains omega-3 oils, thought to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Meat and poultry are eaten in smaller quantities.
- Wine is consumed moderately.
Studies About the Mediterranean Diet
- The New England Journal of Medicine published an article about the positive finding of Spanish researchers in a five-year study of 7,500 participants. The study results found strong data to support eating a Mediterranean diet, including olive oil and nuts to help prevent heart disease.
- One of the most interesting facts about the Mediterranean diet, and perhaps the reason why it has generated so much attention in the USA is that although 40 to 50% of the calories in the traditional Mediterranean diet come from fat, the incidence of heart disease and cancer in the Mediterranean is lower than in the USA.
- Recently, studies of the diet on the Greek island of Crete have appeared in the news, with more intriguing information regarding lower incidents of allergies and asthma in children.
- Several recently published studies of school-aged children in Spain found that they are rejecting the traditional Mediterranean diet in favor of snacks, soft drinks, and fast food, which are high in saturated fat and calories, and lower in nutritional value. (Research published by the Centro Nacional de Alimentación. Agencia Española de Seguridad Alimentaria. Spain)
More About the Spanish Diet
Learn more about basic Spanish food; essential ingredients in Spanish food; meals and the culture of Spain as well as the various regional cuisines in Spain in the following articles:
- An Introduction to Spanish Food and Cooking
- Essential Foods for the Spanish Kitchen
- Grades of Spanish Olive Oil
- Meals and the Culture of Spain
- About Spain and Its' Cuisines - Spain and the Six Culinary Regions
- Spanish Seafood
Learn More About the Mediterranean Diet
If you would like to learn more about the Mediterranean diet, we suggest the following articles:
- Mediterranean Diet Could Prevent Asthma news article from the BBC News, reporting results of a study of diet and health of children on Crete.
- Mediterranean diet for heart health from the Mayo Clinic.com
- Fats and Cholesterol - out With the Bad, in with the Good article from the Harvard School of Public Health
Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med. 2013;368(14):1279-90. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1200303
Chatzi L, Apostolaki G, Bibakis I, et al. Protective effect of fruits, vegetables and the Mediterranean diet on asthma and allergies among children in Crete. Thorax. 2007;62(8):677-83. doi:10.1136/thx.2006.069419
Fernández San Juan PM. Dietary habits and nutritional status of school aged children in Spain. Nutr Hosp. 2006;21(3):374-8.