The Mediterranean Diet
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) plays a central role in the renowned Mediterranean diet, celebrated for its numerous health benefits. The virtues of EVOO are deeply rooted in the goodness of olives and the liquid gold derived from their milling. Despite its recent surge in popularity, Extra Virgin Olive Oil has been a dietary staple in the Mediterranean region for centuries. The ancient Roman millstones scattered across Italy serve as tangible evidence of age-old traditions that continue to influence modern methods of producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The Mediterranean diet, globally recognised for its healthiness, focuses on a rich variety of whole, unprocessed foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, and poultry form its foundation. Extra Virgin Olive Oil replaces all other fats in cooking, contributing to heart-healthy meals. The diet, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and essential nutrients, is linked to improved cardiovascular health, reduced inflammation, and brain health.
No matter where you are in the Mediterranean, or which country you’re taking culinary inspiration from, there is one common denominator: Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
At its core, the magic of EVOO lies in its high levels of polyphenols. These compounds, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, combat cell damage within the body. Scientifically, polyphenols shield the oil's fatty acids from oxidation. Research shows these polyphenols play a pivotal role in reducing the risk and impact of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Italian cuisine, famed for its flavourful and diverse dishes, plays a significant role in shaping the Mediterranean diet. The traditional Italian approach involves using fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared with simplicity and passion. EVOO, a staple in Italian cooking, enhances flavours and aligns with the healthy principles of the Mediterranean diet. From drizzling it over fresh salads to incorporating it into pasta sauces and sautés, EVOO imparts a distinctive taste to each dish. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the only fat or oil you should be using for cooking as part of this diet.
So, what exactly can you eat on the Mediterranean diet?
The key to the Mediterranean diet is balanced meals, embracing whole, unprocessed foods including:
- Whole Grains
- Extra virgin olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil replaces all other fats used in cooking, and dairy, particularly yoghurt and cheese, play a big part in providing protein. Think Greek or plain yoghurt and unprocessed cheeses such as feta or Parmigiano Reggiano. Red meat is consumed sparingly, while red wine is encouraged in moderation!
Regional herbs and spices play a huge role in this diet, with a plethora of herbs/spices, each distinct to its region within the Mediterranean.
What can’t you eat? The good news is, when eating the Mediterranean way, there are few things off limits. Pasta, pizza & bread are all to be enjoyed in moderation. It is important to stay away from processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains.
Meals: While we love Italian dishes, the same principles of the diet are shared with our Mediterranean neighbours. There is a wealth of cuisines, ranging from Spanish to Lebanese, and within these countries, you will also find local, and regional meals. There is a huge variety, and it is unlikely you will ever get tired of eating the Mediterranean way. It’s all about embracing seasonality and fresh produce.
Every region in Italy offers a diverse range of balanced and nutritious dishes, drawing inspiration from local produce. Sicilian dishes like Caponata are teeming with fresh vegetables, thanks to the fertile soil yielding abundant crops. Meanwhile, Tuscan meals showcase a variety of locally grown beans, exemplified by dishes such as Ribollita. Coastal regions feature an abundance of seafood dishes, contributing to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
If you need some culinary inspiration, take a look at our recipe page, featuring a variety of authentic Mediterranean dishes.