Eating & Living the Mediterranean Way:
Eat like an Italian, and you might just improve your health. Italian cuisine is part of the Mediterranean style of eating, which has sparked attention recently following a New England Journal of Medicine study published this spring that found the Mediterranean diet may lower heart disease among high risk individuals. Americans can easily adopt this healthy style of eating with foods they already love and trust like Barilla pasta. And there's no better time to make the switch than Mediterranean Diet Month this May.
The Mediterranean style of eating is inspired by traditional dietary patterns of the Mediterranean region which includes Italy, and is characterized by high consumption of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and grains – like pasta – and whole grains, moderate consumption of fish, poultry, dairy and eggs and low consumption of red meat and sweets.
The emphasis on plant-based foods is not only good for health and wellness, it is also beneficial for the environment. To illustrate this theory, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) – an international think tank – developed the "Double Pyramid," a two sided model showing consumers how to eat for their health while also minimizing the negative impact on our planet.
"With a growing global population, we face increasing challenges to meet nutritional needs while ensuring the health of our planet," says Robert Ciati, Director of Scientific Relations at BCFN. "This is a sustainable model for eating that is easy to adopt because it's also enjoyable."
Double Pyramid, Double the Benefits for You and the Planet
Consumers who choose to adopt the Mediterranean style of eating can feel good about the environmental and nutritional benefits. The Double Pyramid combines the Food Pyramid on the left, based on Mediterranean diet principles, with the Environmental Pyramid on the right, which is inverted to show the environmental impact of food based on a calculation of greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and land use. Side-by-side, the pyramids show that foods recommended most as part of the Mediterranean diet – fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and grains, like pasta – are also the foods with a lesser impact on the environment.
"Although the Mediterranean style of eating dates back centuries, many Americans are unfamiliar with its many health benefits," says registered dietitian and green eating expert Kate Geagan. "It's easy to start eating green with foods we already enjoy, like pasta, especially when served in the Mediterranean style with lots of colorful vegetables, some lean protein and just enough olive oil – an incredibly healthy fat – to add flavor. And, choosing multi-grain varieties of pasta such as Barilla PLUS is especially smart because it's rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber."
Eat Like an Italian!
The Mediterranean style of eating is all about good food, good health and good care of our planet. Pasta, a good complex carbohydrate, is the foundation of a nutritious meal as it provides a culinary vehicle in which to incorporate more nutrient-rich "partners" such as vegetables and lean proteins into your eating plan. The key to healthful meals is keeping portions right-sized, as well as skipping unhealthy fats including heavy cream sauces.
Kate Geagan and Chef Lorenzo Boni, Executive Chef of Barilla America, recommend some nutritious recipes your family will love that also taste incredible and will have everyone asking for more:
For more information and delicious pasta recipes, visit barilla.com/mediterranean-diet.