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We often hear that the secret to a long and healthy life could lie in ‘the Mediterranean diet’, but what does that actually mean? And how can we borrow some of the secrets from France, Italy, Spain and Greece for a little sunny boost when the British weather turns temperamental?
The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional recipes that use local produce. It’s about homegrown, regional food that’s packed with flavour, without preservatives or additives. It includes lots of fresh fruit and veg, beans, pulses, wholegrain bread and pasta as well as a little fish, white meat and a bit of dairy.
While some key Mediterranean ingredients, such as olives, aren’t native to the UK, you can still embrace the idea of eating locally and seasonally. And, local or not, we’d always recommend choosing a monounsaturated, non-solid fat such as olive oil, as a healthier option.
Another key part of the Mediterranean diet is to sit down and enjoy food with friends and family, celebrating all the things that matter most in life!
ESSENTIAL MEDITERRANEAN INGREDIENTS
Tomatoes feature heavily in all Mediterranean cuisine, forming the base to sauces, soups and stews. They’re also often used in simple salads, with olive oil and local herbs. The hot Mediterranean climate produces some of the sweetest, most delicious variety of tomatoes. But the UK produces some pretty good varieties, too!
Local cheese is made depending on what milk is available to the community – goat, sheep or even water buffalo in the case of mozzarella. The ricotta in recipes such as this Super greens cannelloni adds dairy to a vegetarian meal to create a well-balanced plate.
Olives are grown in abundance in the Mediterranean, with trees lining the roads and filling the fields. The fat in olive oil is monounsaturated (and also found in avocados, rapeseed oil and vegetable oil). It helps to keep cholesterol levels healthy, but should still be eaten in moderation.
Fish and meat are eaten in moderation by a lot of Mediterraneans – it is traditionally seen as a treat, rather than a daily staple. Follow their lead with this gorgeous braised lamb or herby chicken – both great examples of Mediterranean meat recipes. Or try this lovely fish baked in a foil parcel at a simple barbecue in the sun.