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Nutrition Notes

Mediterranean Diet

A popular misconception of a Mediterranean diet has become a standard cliché in medical circles. There is no single such diet. Some of the food choices popular in different regions of Italy would make me chronically ill. Mediterranean countries are numerous and diverse with a great variety of cuisines. You might consider Italian or Greek food, the food of Balkan Countries, France and Spain. Even if you focus on Italy, you do not find a single diet but a great diversity of cuisines. Italian food emerged after the fall of the Roman Empire, when different cities began to separate and form their own traditions. Each area has its own specialties, primarily at a regional level, but also at provincial level. The differences can come from a bordering country (such as France or Austria), whether a region is close to the sea or the mountains, and economics. Italian cuisine is also seasonal with priority placed on the use of fresh produce. Many types of bread and pasta are made, and there is a variation in cooking techniques and preparation. The country was split. For example the North of Italy (Milan) are known for their risottos, the central/middle of the country (Bologna) are known for their tortellini and the South (Naples) are famous for their pizzas.

Italian cuisines have a great variety of ingredients which are commonly used, ranging from fruits, vegetables, sauces and meats. In the North of Italy, fish such as cod, potatoes, rice, corn, sausages, pork, and different types of cheeses are the most common ingredients. Pasta dishes with use of tomato are spread in all Italy. In Northern Italy though there are many kinds of stuffed pasta, polenta and risotto are equally popular. Ligurian ingredients include several types of fish and seafood dishes; basil , nuts and olive oil are very common. In Emilia-Romagna, common ingredients include ham (prosciutto), sausage (cotechino), different sorts of salami, truffles, grana, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and tomatoes (Bolognese sauce or ragù).Traditional Central Italian cuisine uses ingredients such as tomatoes, all kinds of meat, fish, and pecorino cheese. In Tuscany pasta is served with meat sauce. In Southern Italy, tomatoes – fresh or cooked into tomato sauce – peppers, olives and olive oil, garlic, artichokes, oranges, ricotta cheese, eggplants, zucchini, certain types of fish (anchovies, sardines and tuna), and capers are important components to the local cuisine.

Wine is an important feature of Italian cuisine. There are 350 official Italian wine varieties grown from a great variety of grape vines that vary by region. Italy's twenty wine regions; reflect their indigenous wines, and vice versa. Italians rank fifth in world wine consumption with a per capita consumption of 42 liters per year, Italy was the world's second largest wine producer: 20% of the global total, in 2005, second only to France, which produced 26%.

Anyone who points to the" Mediterranean Diet " lacks both geographical and nutritional knowledge. MDs can be forgiven a little since, as a group, they lack knowledge of nutrition and are as vulnerable as their patients who latch onto to brand-name fallacies.


    The term “nutrition” means mean a lot of different things to different people. Some people adopt the term as a professional label; many companies borrow the term to claim a relationship to professional nutrition. Universities may have departments of nutrition. Often the study of nutrition is disconnected from the real world of agricultural practices, food processing and distribution. The intense marketing efforts of food and drug companies flood the media with deliberately biased information that confuses everyone. A majority of health problems are food-related; so these problems get a lot of our attention.

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  • Topics on the left are from the book Nutrition Notes by Stephen Gislason MD. 199 Pages.
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