The traditional diet of inhabitants of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea such as Spain, Italy, Greece or Tunisia, and described in the 1950s by the American scientist Ancel Keys, the Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that integrates notions of simplicity and moderation.
Essentially composed of plant foods and low-processed staple foods, it contains very little added sugar, bad saturated and trans fats, and salt. It provides an appreciable amount of nutrients: dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, good mono, and polyunsaturated fats.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized its importance and uniqueness by inscribing the Mediterranean diet in 2013 as a representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of mankind, same as Chinese calligraphy, Argentine tango, and Japanese Kabuki theater.
Benefits for people with diabetes
For people with diabetes, it is a kind of three in one thanks to its beneficial effect on:
- The blood pressure
- The blood glucose
- The rate of blood cholesterol
Here is a summary of the health benefits of serious studies that followed people with type 2 diabetes who adopted the Mediterranean diet.
- Protective effect against certain cardiovascular diseases (infarction, stroke) and decreased mortality caused by cardiovascular disease.
- Decreased blood pressure.
- Improved control of blood glucose.
- Decreased risk of developing microvascular complications affecting the eyes.
- Improved blood lipid profile, which is added to the action of drugs to reduce bad cholesterol (statins), thanks to a decrease in triglycerides (bad fat) and an increase in HDL-C (good cholesterol).
Foods at the base of the “modified” Mediterranean diet
This pyramid contains all the information needed to compose Mediterranean-style meals. The closer the food gets to the top, the lower the amount consumed or the frequency, occasional.
Olive and canola oils are the main sources of fat, which must still be consumed in moderate amounts. Spices, herbs, and condiments such as garlic and onion are used extensively to enhance the flavor of foods.
It is not necessary to adhere 100% to the Mediterranean diet at any time to reap benefits. It is rather a question of drawing inspiration from its basic principles.
- make more room in the plate for plant-based foods and low-processed staple foods;
- cook more often to vary flavors, colors, textures;
- dedicate the time and attention to each meal.
What about the consumption of red wine?
The profits attributed to the consumption of red wine have been widely publicized. However, the link between red wine and the Mediterranean diet remains rather unknown among the population.
Several people started to drink red wine on a regular basis or increased their consumption, without integrating the other elements of the Mediterranean diet. This isolated change in dietary habits may not provide the anticipated benefits for the following reasons.
- Red wine, like any alcoholic beverage, provides calories and generally stimulates appetite: this can lead to an increase in the amount of food consumed and promote weight gain if the usual diet is not satisfying enough
- Alcohol use may be contraindicated for some people with diabetes due to their health condition or increased risk of hypoglycemia: we invite you to discuss this with a health professional for personalized advice.
What should we learn from this information? In the absence of contraindications, it is possible, but not compulsory, to drink a moderate amount of wine with a Mediterranean type meal.
- Oatmeal, natural Greek yogurt (flavored with vanilla or with a hint of maple syrup), fresh or frozen blueberries with some nuts, coffee with milk.
- Roasted whole grain bread, peanut or almond butter, orange, coffee with milk.
Having dinner :
- Whole-grain pasta with homemade tomato sauce topped with zucchini, aubergine, bell pepper, onion and garlic stir-fried in olive or canola oil and canned white kidney beans rinsed and drained with fine herbs (thyme, oregano, pepper); a hint of Parmesan cheese. Variation: replace legumes with canned tuna.
- Steamed broccoli sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds OR green salad with raw vegetables and vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar or other, lemon juice).
- Apple or pear in pieces, sprinkled with cinnamon, tenderized in the microwave and topped with plain yogurt (Greek or regular).
- Baked salmon, pilau barley, green beans sprinkled with lemon juice and a small salad of red cabbage and carrot with a herbal home vinaigrette OR
- Curried quinoa with stir-fried vegetables (mushrooms, onions, peppers), roasted pecans, raisins, chicken cubes, and steamed bok choy puffs
- Fresh fruit.