The Mediterranean diet is called in this way because it was used among people who lived around the Mediterranean Sea, including the Eastern Mediterranean countries as Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, and Turkey; Southern European countries include France, Spain, and of course Italy, and North African countries as Tunisia and Morocco. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, wheat cereals, legumes, white meat, milk and yogurt. Seafood is an essential dish that is full of protein, and thanks to the Mediterranean Sea people are able to find, buy, and eat fresh seafood daily. Important herbs such as basil, cilantro, oregano, mint and an abundant use of spices characterize this diet. We cannot forget that each country uses a rich variety of greens, spices, and herbs but the most common ingredient was and still is today olive oil.
Olive oil is the essential ingredient of the Mediterranean area, and it underlines the indissoluble link between the plant and its land. The origin of the olive tree is linked to the Middle East and the first olive trees can date back 5000 years ago. The olive tree originated from the Middle East, indeed the most antique crushers were discovered in Siria and Palestine. Later Romans and Greeks made it one of the essential ingredients used in their cuisine. An antique legend exists around the first olive tree. It is said that the first tree was planted in Greece and it was considered as the most useful plant for men, and Zeus, the king of Olympus, granted the goddess Athena the sovereignty of Athens, for this reason the olive tree was considered sacred, no one could have destroyed it except for building cult statues. The Egyptians, as Cleopatra, used olive oil to keep their skin young, since then it was also used as a secret ingredient to cure diseases. In the Bible as well, it was the olive branch to sanction the alliance between God and men and that’s why it is a symbol of rebirth and peace. Today the production of olive oil has extended to the whole globe, and nevertheless the olive tree remains a specificity of the Mediterranean. Out of 800 million cultivated plants, over 90 % are grown in the Mediterranean basin, with Italy and Spain as the two most important olive oil producers. Olives come especially from the southern regions of Italy, such as Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily, where the weather and the mild climate favor the growth of this millenary plant. Whoever has been to Italy or Spain and has traveled around by car, has surely noticed the immense expanses of olive trees, that characterize the Italian, Spanish, and Mediterranean landscape.
Mediterranean cuisine has become more and more appreciated among people, and it is considered to be one of the best in the whole world. The Mediterranean diet is recommended for several reasons: it ensures an adequate supply of nutrients, full of fibers, proteins, low cholesterol, and mono-saturated fats, and rich in antioxidants. Statistics and studies affirm that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular diseases and it prevents the appearance of cancer; it reduces mortality rates, the risk of health issues as heart problems, diabetes, and obesity which have become the main factors in Western countries due to their typical unbalanced eating style, progress, and a sedentary life.