All the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
A food and cultural heritage that is good for health, the environment and society

We often hear the word “diet” demonized because it is associated with excessive dietary restrictions and negative feelings. But one only has to look up its etymology to find that it has a different meaning: “diet” means “lifestyle.” So, it is something that is about much more than just foods. The perfect example of this is the Mediterranean Diet. Recognized Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on November 16, 2010, “constitutes a set of skills, knowledge, practices and traditions ranging from landscape to table.” The food style of the Mediterranean countries represents a model of healthy and sustainable diet par excellence that prevents the onset of major diseases, promotes social interaction through conviviality, and ensures the preservation of traditional and artisanal activities that respect the land and biodiversity. Yesterday was World Mediterranean Diet Day: let’s find out all its benefits together.

Photo: Quin Engle


The Mediterranean Diet unites Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco and Portugal. Together, these seven countries form a specific eco-region, characterized by an incredible diversity of landscape, geology, climate, and the presence of ancient plant species, first and foremost the olive tree and the grapevine. At the center is the Mediterranean Sea, which for millennia has been a connecting element, enabling the propagation of techniques and inventions, the accumulation of common experiences. This accelerated the progress of Mediterranean societies, and, together with the favorable climate and fertile land, allowed the development of an extraordinary agricultural model and the evolution of a particularly virtuous cuisine, because it is still capable of providing numerous benefits for human health, the environment and society.

Photo: Anton Nikolov


Fruits, vegetables, cereals, bread, pasta, fish, legumes, olive oil, nuts. The Mediterranean Diet is a comprehensive nutritional model with scientifically proven health potentials. Their discovery was due to U.S. biologist and physiologist Ancel Keyes, who between the 1950s and 1960s found evidence of a possible causal link between the diets of Mediterranean populations and their reduced mortality from cardiovascular events. Since then, a great deal of research has been published highlighting how this dietary style can affect counteracting the onset of myocardial infarctions, cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, as well as some cancers and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).

This depends mainly on the nutritional properties of the foods provided in the Mediterranean Diet: for example, fruits, vegetables, cereals, olive oil, tea and coffee are rich in antioxidants, while fish, oily nuts and some meats ensure a majority of “good fats” – such as omega-3 and omega-6. But the high intake of vitamins and folates, the presence of substances with anti-inflammatory action, and the low consumption of saturated fats also contribute greatly to slowing the progress of many pathological conditions.

In addition, high daily fiber intake plays a key role – which gives a sense of satiety and helps keep the glycemic index down – , the seasonality and variety of plant products, the use of spices and herbs instead of salt, the consumption of fermented foods such as bread and yogurt, and above all, frugal portion sizes combined with regular physical activity. Daily movement is essential for a healthy lifestyle, indeed, the Mediterranean Diet is also suitable for athletes, as Professor Giorgio Calabrese often reminds us, internationally renowned Italian physician specializing in Food Science, lecturer at the University of Eastern Piedmont in Alexandria and at the Universities of Turin and Messina, Scientific Advisor to the Ministry of Health, publicist journalist, researcher, and one of the world’s leading experts on the Mediterranean Diet.

Paraphrasing what he says in many interviews, in the Mediterranean Diet history, tradition and science come together to provide a balanced dietary pattern capable of ensuring longevity. Not surprisingly, two of the five “Blue Zones” are located in the Mediterranean: the’Ogliastra in Sardinia and the Island of Icaria in Greece are among the shortlist of regions that, according to demographic studies by Gianni Pes, Michel Poulain and Dan Buettner, constitute the fulcrums of longevity in the world.

Photo: NordWood Themes


But the Mediterranean Diet also offers a number of environmental, social and economic benefits. Contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources while exerting less environmental impact than other diets and preserving biodiversity through diversified sowing and crop rotation. At the social level, promotes food awareness, local connection and cultural identity; it also encourages conviviality, increasing social cohesion. On the economic side, it can reduce both national health spending and household food spending, while also supporting the trade of local products, and thus businesses – which in turn generate income and employment. Finally, by enhancing the territory, the Mediterranean Diet can contribute to the deseasonalization of tourism through the promotion of food and wine culture.

The Mediterranean Diet constitutes one of the cornerstones of Italian culture and identity. In preserving this precious heritage, the action of farms such as those belonging to Filiera Agricola Italiana, dedicated to respecting the land and people, as well as passing on the techniques of cultivation, production, preservation and food preparation that are key to the Mediterranean food model, is also crucial. Cultivating a healthier and more conscious lifestyle can concretely help ensure a future in which humans, the environment and society live in harmony.