Much is made of the Mediterranean diet’s health benefits, and any wellness-seeker worth their Himalayan rock salt can rattle off a short list of its major ingredients — unprocessed plant-based foods with plenty of extra virgin olive oil, fish and shellfish, and wine (in moderation of course).
But is it as simple as transplanting foodstuffs from one culture and continent to another, or do the benefits stem from something rather deeper?
A group of Australian researchers from Sydney and La Trobe universities have attempted to answer this question with a review of the literature, looking beyond the mere contents of the diet to examine whether other factors may be important in its widely-purported benefits.
They found that the way the food is prepared and consumed is also relevant, singling out a few factors in their review, which was published recently in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition and funded by a grant from Sydney’s St Vincents Clinic Foundation:
- frequent intake of home-cooked meals
- use of traditional foods and combinations
- moist, lower-temperature cooking methods
- eating main meals in company
- fewer snacking occasions
- ownership of a vegetable garden
- napping after the midday meal
Reflecting on their findings, the authors called for further research into how important these factors are in the Mediterranean diet’s effectiveness, and whether its promotion ought to be more holistic and take food preparation and consumption habits and cultural context into consideration.
Any diet that emphasises a home-cooked meal with friends and some post-prandial shuteye is okay by us.