By Salama Evans, Managing Editor of HalalFocus
Southern Italy, Greece and Spain stand
out along the northern Mediterranean
coast as having what we know today as
the “Mediterranean Diet.” The basis of
this diet is very little red meat, eating
fish and poultry at least twice a week
and eating primarily plant-based foods,
such as fruits and vegetables, whole
grains, legumes and nuts.
Olive oil is the key ingredient in
Mediterranean cooking. It contains a
very high level of monounsaturated fats,
most notably oleic acid, which studies
suggest may be linked to a reduced risk
of coronary heart disease. There is also
evidence that the antioxidants in olive
oil improve cholesterol regulation, mak-
ing it good for the heart. People in the
countries all around the Mediterranean
Sea use olive oil instead of butter to dip
their bread.
The diet of people in this region was first
studied post World War II by an American
scientist named Ancel Keys. However, the
Mediterranean Diet we hear talked about
today, and on which many studies have
been done, only became popular in the
1990s. After his extensive studies, he real-
ized it was the lifestyle and diet of people
in these countries that reduced the chance
of heart disease that was (and still is) high
in America.
Today the Mediterranean Diet is syn-
onymous with a healthy lifestyle. This
Mediterranean lifestyle also includes lei-
surely social dining and regular physical
activity, both of which are an important
part of the equation.
There is no single Mediterranean Diet.
Instead, each region across Europe and
Asia from Spain to the Middle East cus-
tomizes the basic diet to take advantage
of food availability and cultural prefer-
ences. Eating food in its season, and
which is grown locally, is also part of
good eating. With the abundance of
fruits and vegetables grown in these
countries it makes the high fruit and veg-
etable base of this diet easy for them.
Today people eat on the run, often in
front of the television, and rarely does
the whole family sit down at the table
together and enjoy a meal in western
society. Home cooking has become a
thing of the past, a skill that is no longer
passed on, and ready meals have “made
life easier” for working people. But all
these things have consequences.
Processed foods are at the top of the list
for causing bad health and obesity. Not
knowing the true contents of these pre-
pared meals recently caused a scandal
that started in Europe but has extended
to the Middle East, where they are ana-
lyzing their imported beef products,
because of unlabeled horsemeat being
found in frozen meals and burgers.
Halal meat was not exempt from this,
with horsemeat being found in burgers
served in halal school dinners in the UK.
All for the benefit of companies want-
ing to make food as cheap as they can to
be competitive in the price wars among
retail outlets.
Muslims today should consider the
Mediterranean region diet which
includes more eating fresh produce. This
could reduce obesity and diabetes both
in adults and children which are a prob-
lem in Muslim countries now.
Children who learn to eat a wide variety
of foods early in life are more likely to
enjoy and stick with a healthier dietary
pattern for life. A wide variety of choices
makes it easy, even for the pickiest eat-
ers, to stick to and enjoy the diet.
You can embrace the Mediterranean style
of eating by making smart food choices.
Select whole grains for your breads,
cereals, and starches. Choose fish, low-
fat dairy, poultry, nuts, and legumes to
satisfy your protein needs (include some
lean meat as well). Bulk up on vegetables
and more importantly reduce the amount
of saturated fat in your diet by using
olive or canola oil instead of butter. 
The good news is that studies have
shown that it's never too late to adopt
the Mediterranean lifestyle to increase
longevity and reduce the risk of chronic
Bring a Bit of Mediterranean
Lifestyle Into Your Home
Spring 2013
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