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There are many diets, but few healthy ones. The one we have the most at home: the Mediterranean diet. This is according to Dr. Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, specialist in Preventive Medicine and Public Health, author of the book 'What do you eat? (ed. Planeta), where he analyzes our eating pattern from a scientific point of view, and one of the greatest experts on the Mediterranean diet. "Obesity will be the most important pandemic of the 21st century, even more so than Covid," says the doctor, "because behind obesity are diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes), some cancers (postmenopausal breast, colon, renal, esophageal, pancreatic), kidney failure and fatty degeneration of the liver."

To avoid it, there is no more secret than eating well and the expert points out how: the key is in the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and in avoiding "what we now call low-quality carbohydrates. That is, foods rich in starch and with a lot of starches (white bread, potatoes, pizza, rice) or with a lot of added sugars (sugary drinks, including juices, industrial pastries, biscuits and cakes)".

The Mediterranean diet is so healthy that it is even considered a fundamental pillar for those undergoing surgical treatment to combat obesity. "Undergoing any bariatric surgery or stomach reduction treatment is closely related to eating a diet that maintains and enhances the results of the procedure," says Dr. Esther Montoliu, nutritionist and Technical Director of the Overweight and Obesity Unit at Dorsia Clinics. "Due to its high nutrient density and low glycemic index, it is ideal for optimal recovery and to prevent future complications. It is the perfect post-surgical ally, especially to maintain the desired results after any surgery, such as endoscopy or bariatric surgery," says the nutritionist, an expert in intestinal microbiota.

It's clear: the Mediterranean diet beats almost any other diet that comes our way, so it seems that Spaniards and Italians have it easy. But not so much because, do we really know how to do it? "For some time now, it seems that it has been relegated to the past due to a generational change in our country," adds Aitor Sánchez, a dietitian-nutritionist dedicated to scientific dissemination and author of the books, among others, Mi dieta cojea and Qué pasa con la nutrición (ed. Paidós). "While television promotes olive oil, avocado triumphs in the field," he says in the latter. "The official recommendations of about 15 or 20 years ago on the Mediterranean diet included high amounts of cereals, refined flours and even alcohol. And it is true that if we talk about Mediterranean culture, the consumption of certain alcoholic beverages can be defended with gastronomic arguments related to the palate, tourism or even the economy, but never for health reasons," insists Sánchez.

At the same time, foods that do contribute to making the Mediterranean diet a healthy pattern went unnoticed. Like nuts, a very interesting food for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and neurological complications. And the same happens with legumes, which for centuries were the engine of the traditional diet and ensured, together with cereals, the contribution of energy and vegetable protein in times of scarcity and humility, but which now have an annual per capita consumption of less than 4 kilos, that is, not an average portion per week", explains Aitor Sánchez. "And, unfortunately, part of the culture of stir-frying is being lost as some recipes are westernized: rice with vegetables or chickpeas has been replaced by rice with tomato. The loss of the stir-fry inevitably leads to a nutritional and culinary impoverishment of the dishes," he says.

All in all, we are left with the question that the expert asks himself in his latest book: have the principles of the Mediterranean diet been correctly communicated? It doesn't seem like it, because it's not just eating like our grandmothers. "It's an absolute simplification of the message," says Sanchez.

Keys to understanding the Mediterranean diet

As Esther Montoliu states, "the Mediterranean diet goes far beyond following a specific eating pattern. The key to quality food is to really know where the products that make up our diet come from through fresh and local food, moving away from the infinite number of packaged products with a long list of ingredients that make it difficult to understand their real content".

Unlike other well-known dietary trends, the Mediterranean "does not eliminate food groups, but rather extols them in their purest and healthiest form," says the nutritionist, who explains that the point is not to restrict yourself when it comes to eating, but to find a balance. "It is one of the most sustainable diets in the long term because it allows great flexibility: it is possible to adapt it to individual needs without sacrificing pleasure or nutrition," says Dr. Montoliu.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Mediterranean diet is that it acts as an inspirational muse for the longevity diet, which "feeds on ancestral and scientific knowledge to formulate a lifestyle that maximizes our years of life," Montoliu points out. "Our Mediterranean diet is a key factor in creating blue zones, regions of the earth where it is common to reach up to 100 years of age. The longevity diet, much desired and pursued in many countries around the world, shares with the Mediterranean diet the intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, as well as the reduction of the consumption of red and processed meats."

In addition, incorporating the Mediterranean diet into our daily lives brings us great benefits. In the short term, "an injection of vitality and improvement in digestion," Montoliu reveals. In the long run, "it can act as an armor against chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, and even reduce the likelihood of suffering from dementia, as supported by numerous studies," says the doctor.


8 Keys to Following a Mediterranean Diet

The key to following the long-awaited Mediterranean dietis "simplicity and gradualness," says Esther Montoliu. Although we believe it to be internalized and present in all our kitchens, doing it well is a "completely new routine, and covering it from the beginning is complicated and inadvisable," he warns, insisting that, like any other process of change, it needs to be learned, "and for that, we must practice." How? Starting by putting into practice some tips that will allow us to implement it little by little. They are listed by Dr. Montoliu.

  • Replace saturated fats with the liquid gold of the Mediterranean: extra virgin olive oil.
  • Start by gradually including fish and legumes in your weekly menu.
  • For snacks? Replace them with seasonal fruits in their various formats: fruit salads, compotes, skewers... This avoids falling into the monotony of eating an apple or a banana.
  • Choose one Mediterranean dish a week: a vegetable as the protagonist + whole grain + portion of protein of your choice.
  • Innovate in the kitchen with the infinite number of different culinary techniques that we have at our disposal today, and choose a food for it. "There's not just grilled chicken! We can stew it, bake it, with a stir-fry...", recommends the nutritionist.
  • Get out of the typical way of just salting your dishes: use spices to add flavor.
  • Try to buy local and seasonal produce.
  • Sharing is living! In Spain, the act of eating is a very social event, so cook and eat with friends and family. This, in addition, is key and very important for our mental health.
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