I’m a great advocate of Med-eating. Not only do I love my garlic-infused pasta, I’m also pretty convinced by the evidence on the health benefits. Typical Med foods are olive oil, fish, nuts, garlic, grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables.
Research published in the British Medical Journal in 2004 studied almost 75,000 men and women over 60 in nine European countries over a period of 12 years. Those who followed a traditional Mediterranean diet had a lower overall mortality – basically, choose these foods and you could live longer. Note that this is about the whole diet, not just a token addition of some beans to your jacket potato.
Bottom line: whether you live in Athens or Aberdeen, eating the various traditional Mediterranean foods appears to lower your risk of chronic disease.
Obviously, there’s more to the Mediterranean than just food, and other lifestyle and cultural factors will be at play. Activity levels, genetics and body weight are also important, and I would argue the chilled lifestyle has a lot to do with it too. Two-hour lunches in France are a far cry from demolishing a sandwich at your desk in London.
The British ‘convenient’ lifestyle perhaps lacks the pleasure and relaxation associated with good home cooking and social eating.
My mate Sabrina tells me that living in Tuscany isn’t only about eating pasta. If you watch Italians at the street markets, you’ll notice they stop to smell and explore the fresh products and ingredients. ‘For Italians, the street markets are a sensory experience rather than a duty for the need of cooking’, she tells me.