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The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a modern nutritional model inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of some of the countries of the Mediterranean basin, particularly Southern Italy and Greece.
Common to the diets of these regions are a high consumption of fruit and vegetables, bread, wheat and other cereals, olive oil and fish; making them low in  saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat and dietary fiber. A main factor in the appeal of the Mediterranean Diet is its rich, full flavored foods. Margarine and other unhealthy hydrogenated oils are considered bland and lacking the flavor olive oil can impart to foods. Red wine is also consumed regularly but in moderate quantities.

Although it was first publicized in 1945 by the American doctor Ancel Keys stationed in Salerno, Italy, the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. It is based on what from the point of view of mainstream nutrition is considered a paradox: that although the people living in Mediterranean countries tend to consume relatively high amounts of fat, they have far lower rates of cardiovascular disease than in countries like the United States, where similar levels of fat consumption are found.

One of the main explanations is thought to be the large amount of olive oil used in the Mediterranean diet. Unlike the high amount of animal fats typical to the American diet, olive oil lowers cholesterol levels in the blood. It is also known to lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure. In addition, the consumption of red wine is considered a possible factor, as it contains flavonoids with powerful antioxidant properties.