The UNESCO Mediterranean diet
“The Mediterranean diet is much more than a simple diet. It promotes social interaction, seeing as the communal meal lays the foundations for social customs and festivities shared by a given community, which in turn has given space to a remarkable corpus of knowledge, songs, aphorisms, tales and legends. The diet is based on respect for its territory and biodiversity, and guarantees the conservation and the development of traditional trades and professions associated with fishing and agriculture in Mediterranean communities”
It is with such motivation that UNESCO recognized the Mediterranean diet as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November 2010. A heritage that reunites the dietary habits of the communities in the Mediterranean basin (Italy, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia and Cyprus), reinforced over centuries and almost still unchanged up until the fifties, it represents so much more than a simple list of foods, but rather a culture of social, traditional and agricultural practices.
The Mediterranean Diet is as suggested by the etymology of the word (from Greek diaita), a way of life, a modus vivendi, a relational and cultural element that reinforces the sense of belonging and sharing between communities that live in the Mediterranean basin. As “eating together”, typical of the Mediterranean diet, is far from simply the act of consuming a meal, its meaning extends to strengthening the foundations of interpersonal relationships, promoting dialogue and creativity, and passing on the identity and values of communities.
Bread, pasta, vegetables, legumes, fresh and dried fruit, as well as white meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, olive oil and wine are the elements that make up the foundations of the Mediterranean diet. A healthy and balanced dietary model mainly made up of plant-based foods with a diversified and balanced consumption, which is passed down from generation to generation in seven different communities overlooking the “Mare Nostrum”. Numerous scientific studies have shown that in addition to the Mediterranean diet proving to be healthy, it also helps prevent principal chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, bulimia and obesity, and due to the powerful antioxidant properties in olive oil teamed with the consumption of vegetables, it proves as an important medium for preventing tumours.
However, as devised by nutritionists using a food pyramid, the Mediterranean diet is not limited to a nutritional, social and cultural value. Thanks to the commitment to natural resources and reduced emission of concentrated greenhouse gasses (based mainly on plant-based foods), respecting seasonal cycles of produce, the territory and biodiversity (through different seeding times and the rotation of cultivation), the Mediterranean diet guarantees balance between nature and mankind and renewal of resources. In a few words, the Mediterranean diet is a healthy and sustainable dietary model, proving to be one of the most sustainable dietary models both for the environment and for our health.