Mediterranean Diet: The World's Healthiest Diet?

By Rachel Johnson, Ph.D, M.P.H., R.D., "The World's Healthiest Diet?," September/October 2008

Research shows that eating like a Mediterranean is good for your waist as well as your heart.

"'Eating Mediterranean' doesn't necessarily mean flavoring everything with rosemary and covering it in tomato sauce. As long as the basics are there (lots of legumes, vegetables and whole grains, limited meat, healthy fats, fish), you can...

4. Enjoy a glass of wine with meals. Enjoy wine in moderation during meals, never drinking alone outside of the meal and never in excess. Drinking wine increases HDL (good) cholesterol, may help regulate blood sugar and can even help you digest your food and absorb its nutrients. Wines, especially reds, also deliver a dose of heart-healthy resveratrol. Take Trichopoulou’s advice and use wine “to enjoy life, not to forget life!”

Can the Mediterranean Diet endure today? I think ancient food traditions will never truly go away; they’ve already survived for millennia. But just the thought of traditional ways under siege is enough to scare some countries into safeguarding their food heritage: Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco recently launched an international campaign to win United Nations recognition by adding the Mediterranean Diet to its World Heritage List, and give it protected status just like historic sites.

In the meantime, I’m working on putting Dr. Trichopoulou’s advice into practice in my everyday life. Olive oil for dipping has become a staple on our dinner table and we regularly enjoy meatless meals along with our nightly glass of red wine. Mark and I are happily returning to Italy this fall with a plan to enjoy the old ways as much as we can. Salute!

Rachel K. Johnson, EatingWell’s senior nutrition advisor, is Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont.

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