Nutrition tip: Mediterranean Diet
Nutrition tip: Mediterranean Diet
Tasty food and drink, a good work-life balance, siesta and plenty of sunshine are all a normal part of life for many in the Mediterranean. A central component of this lifestyle is its cuisine, which not only tastes good but is also good for the body.
Photo: ©fotolia/Pixelbliss

Crete & Co

The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits of people in Mediterranean countries (traditionally, where olives are grown) in the 1960s. In particular, this includes Crete, the Greek mainland, Spain and Southern Italy. Nutrition in these countries does not, however, follow the same form. There are differences not only between the various countries, but even within the individual regions. Despite this, one common characteristic is clearly evident – a strong vegetarian influence. In 2010, UNESCO included the Mediterranean diet on its representative List of Intangible Heritage.

What does it include?

High proportion of plant foods
Abundant consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, potatoes and grain products e.g. wholegrain bread, brown rice, bulgur, quinoa (complex carbohydrates) etc.

Moderate proportion of animal foods
Moderate amounts of dairy products, like cheese and yoghurt, are consumed daily. Fish and white meat (poultry) are eaten a few times a week while red meat, like lamb and pork, is eaten only rarely.

Olive oil as the main source of fat
Olive oil is used in cooking as well as in the preparation of salads and other cold dishes. 100g olive oil contains an average of 69g monounsaturated oleic acid and 9.1g polyunsaturated fatty acids. High quality cold-pressed olive oils (extra virgin) also contain valuable phenolic acids, phenol alcohols, lignans and flavones. The greenish colour of the oil is largely due to the presence of chlorophyll.

Fresh herbs
Fresh and dried herbs are used in the preparation of meals, giving the dishes an irresistible flavour and aroma.

Red wine
One to two glasses of wine per day , usually drunk with meals, are quite normal. Research has shown that people who drink alcohol (red wine, white wine, beer in small quantities) have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and tend to live longer than teetotallers. Comparing non-drinkers to light drinkers, after a few weeks of moderate alcohol consumption, one sees an increase of “good” HDL cholesterol, as well as an improvement in the blood values for adiponectin (fat tissue hormone) and fibrin (a protein important for blood production). These improved values are usually associated with a rarer occurrence of myocardial infarction and stroke, which has also been confirmed in longer terms. Results of previous studies show that it does not necessarily have to be red wine; even white wine or beer, in small quantities, could be beneficial to one’s health. The quantity consumed is the far more important factor.

Good because.......

The increased consumption of fruit and vegetables and the lower consumption of meat and sausage products have been shown to have a positive effect on the reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) and increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels (hyperlipidemia).

The following factors also contribute:

Dietary fibre
On the one hand, dietary fibre influences digestion positively and stimulates intestinal activity. On the other hand, it also contributes to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Some fibres (e.g. pectin in apples) have the ability to bind free bile acids, leading to increased excretion of these bile acids. Since the bile acids are made from cholesterol, this leads to a reduction of the cholesterol level and, ultimately, to a reduced risk of arteriosclerosis (vessel narrowing) and coronary heart diseases (coronary arteries).

Foods that ripen under strong sunshine, such as tropical fruit, tomatoes and carrots, and those with a high content of unsaturated fatty acids, such as seeds, germ oils and olive oil, are good sources of antioxidants. Studies have shown that a high intake of antioxidants from natural foods can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Carotenoids and polyphenols are of great importance. Polyphenols can be found, for example, in red wine and olive oil. Some phenols inhibit what is known as thrombocyte aggregation, and can thus counteract the formation of blood clots.

Unsaturated fatty acids
The Mediterranean diet can lower the concentration of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol in the blood, while the HDL level (good cholesterol) is barely affected.


With rising prosperity and increasing tourism, Mediterranean eating habits also changed. Studies in Spain, Italy and Crete have shown that the energy intake has increased and, at the same time, physical activity has decreased. Although the proportion of fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil remain high, the proportion of saturated fatty acids has increased and, thus, there is a greater risk of nutrition-related diseases, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Particularly good for....

Many studies show that the Mediterranean diet contributes significantly to both prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke. It is, therefore, particularly recommended for high-risk patients and those who have a history of heart disease.

There is no food alone, but rather the Mediterranean diet as a whole, that has a protective effect on a person’s health. The Mediterranean way of life, enjoying leisurely meals and a daily siesta after lunch, should also be taken into account.

If you would like to find out more about the Mediterranean diet, we recommend the following website:

The Kornspitz team is always there for you. If you have any questions, requests, suggestions or tips, please send an email to

Mag. Gerda Reimann-Dorninger
Nutrition scientist

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