Mediterranean Cuisine Term Paper

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¶ … nutrition especially in the treatment of obesity. Specifically it will discuss the Mediterranean cuisine and its benefits in controlling weight. For the past two to three decades, food writers and nutritionists have been touting the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Technically, this cuisine stretches from the shores of Morocco and the Middle East to North Africa and Southern Europe, but when most people discuss Mediterranean cuisine, they are referring to the cuisines of Italy, France, and Spain. Studies indicate Mediterranean cuisine is a healthy diet that contains many of the vitamins and nutrients that help us live longer, healthier lives.

The Mediterranean diet of southern Europe is high in many items that many scientists and researchers believe help maintain heart health and a healthy weight. Olive oil, tomatoes, vegetables, lean meats, and even red wine all are an integral part of this diet, and studies indicate residents of the area live longer, with fewer heart problems, than residents of the United States. As more people learn about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, it seems that more people will begin to study and live this healthier lifestyle. One way to encourage the adaptation of the American diet is to help people learn the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, learn how to prepare healthy dishes at home, and provide low-calorie and fat alternative for dining out, using the principles of the Mediterranean diet as a guide.

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One of the key ingredients in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. Most countries in the area produce many different types of this oil, and they use it almost exclusively in their cooking. The American Heart Association notes, "More than half the fat calories in a Mediterranean diet come from monounsaturated fats (mainly from olive oil). Monounsaturated fat doesn't raise blood cholesterol levels the way saturated fat does."

Term Paper on Mediterranean Cuisine Assignment

In fact, the Mediterranean diet uses very few dairy products, (cheese is popular, but in moderation), and most dairy products are high in Monounsaturated fat. The Mediterranean diet is also high in fruits and vegetables, fish, and grains, such as bread and pasta. They tend to eat very little red meat, which is another reason the diet is healthier than the traditional "meat and potatoes" diet of many Americans. It is notable that canola oil is another healthy alternative to other saturated oils, and that canola oil is used in the Mediterranean diet, as well.

Another key ingredient in the diet is fruit and vegetables, especially tomatoes and their related products. Tomatoes, and tomato-based products such as tomato paste and tomato sauce, are staples in the Mediterranean diet. Tomatoes have a wealth of nutritional benefits, including antioxidants like Vitamins a, C, and lycopene. Lycopene is the ingredient in tomatoes that makes them red, and it remains even after tomatoes are processed into sauces and other products. Studies indicate lycopene is also an extremely effective ingredient in fighting prostate cancer and heart disease.

This may be another reason the Mediterranean diet is healthier and helps prevent disease, and since lycopene is not lost in processing, items like spaghetti and pizza sauce contain enough lycopene to make a difference in the diet.

Americans tend to eat a lot of products that contain tomatoes, in everything from salsa to ketchup and pizza sauce, so adding more of these items to the diet (in low-fat recipes and moderation), could help prevent disease and help maintain a healthy weight, as well.

Red wine is another common item in the Mediterranean diet. Doctors have long prescribed a glass of red wine each night with dinner to promote heart health. The benefits of a moderate amount of alcohol consumption have been noted for many different diseases, and this may be yet another reason why the Mediterranean diet is so effective at producing good health and longevity. Of course, "moderation" is the key word when it comes to alcohol consumption. The Mayo Clinic Web site continues, "This means no more than one 5-ounce glass of wine daily for women (or men over age 65), and no more than two 5-ounce glasses of wine daily for men under age 65." Drinking too much is certainly harmful to the health and can create a wide variety of health concerns, so moderation is the key to this element of the Mediterranean diet.

Fish is also quite prevalent in the Mediterranean diet, because most of the countries border the Mediterranean itself. There is far less red meat in the Mediterranean diet than Americans consume. One reason is that the countries enjoying the Mediterranean diet are relatively small, and they cannot contain cattle herds large enough to support the populations. The American diet is extremely heavy in red meats, and these meats are higher in calories and fat than poultry and fish. Thus, the Mediterranean diet may contain more starches and grains, but in the whole, it is far healthier and satisfying than the typical high-fat, high-calorie American diet.

It is notable that the Mediterranean diet is also low in sweets and desserts (mostly they rely on fruit instead of sweet pastries or baked items), and it is low in deep-fat fried foods, as well. This makes sense, as olive oil is known for its low smoking point, making it unacceptable for deep-fat frying. There are exceptions, but for the most part, foods are sauteed in a small amount of olive oil, leading to healthier fried foods and less of a reliance on high-fat, battered and fried items, such as those common in many fast food and other restaurants.

Not all of the Mediterranean diet's benefits lie solely with the types of food the diet contains. Another important element is the lifestyle of the area, and when food is consumed. In most of these areas, the lunchtime meal is the largest of the day, and it usually takes place between twelve-thirty and one-thirty in the afternoon. This means the people have longer to digest and utilize the nutrients of their main meal, rather than consuming the major amount of calories in the evening, as we do in our country.

Traditionally, a much smaller meal is eaten in the evening in the Mediterranean diet, ant this is easier on the digestion as well as in the absorption of calories and nutrients.

In addition to the weight loss and dietary benefits of the Mediterranean diet, there are significant heart health results from the diet, as well. The editors of the Mayo Clinic Web site note, "The Mediterranean eating style significantly reduces the risk of further heart disease in individuals who had already had a heart attack. Remarkably, this benefit was not related to any significant difference in cholesterol levels -- rather other components of the diet seem to work in concert to protect the body."

This is another significant aspect for Americans who want to improve their heart health quickly and effectively.

Adopting a Mediterranean diet is not difficult, and the benefits can be dramatic. Heart disease is one of the most common afflictions in America today, and this is thought to be related to our sedentary lifestyles and reliance on high fat, high-calorie diets made up of fast food, take-out food, and high use of dairy products such as butter and cheese. In addition, studies indicate the diet is also effective in reducing the risk of at least some cancers. Another author notes, "The researchers concluded that 'patients following a cardioprotective Mediterranean diet have a prolonged "survival and may also be protected against cancer.'"

Thus, the diet can control many types of diseases while promoting a healthy weight and weight loss, as well. Another benefit of this diet concerns expectant mothers. Many doctors urge expectant mothers to adopt a Mediterranean diet during their pregnancy to reduce many health problems, including hypertension and hormonal problems.

One way to discover how individuals in the area eat is to interview them, and one author did just that. She quotes one Italian on her eating habits, "For the first course we always eat spaghetti. We all love it. And then we eat roast beef, or roast chicken, or meat cooked in tomato sauce, potatoes-more than anything, potatoes-tomatoes, salad greens, zucchini, beans, lots of variety. Look, a little of everything, that's what we eat."

This "little bit of everything" approach is another aspect of the region's diet that promotes health and longevity. Not only does the diet contain a wide variety of foods that are healthy and easy to prepare, it contains a variety of vegetables and high-protein items such as beans, which can help add fiber and protein to a diet without many fat and fat-related calories. Their diets are high in starch and grains, as well, but because they tend to be more active, they need these quick-burning calories to maintain their activity levels. The low-carbohydrate diets that are so popular with Americans work largely because we are much more sedentary than those who live in the Mediterranean, and so, we need fewer starch/sugar calories for fuel.

Of course, many studies indicate… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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