The Mediterranean diet: a lifestyle

The Mediterranean diet has been the subject of countless studies and is one of the region's most widely exported – and copied – assets.
The Mediterranean diet is not just a collection of recommended ingredients and foods – it's a fully-fledged lifestyle based around good habits that derive from the dietary traditions of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy. We've come to expect to see unrefined grains, vegetables and fruit on our tables every day, but it’s not always been this way...

The origins of the Mediterranean diet: the most popular diet in the world

What would you think if we told you that the Mediterranean diet was studied and categorized by a researcher from... the USA? Well, it’s true. In the early 1950s, the American biologist and physiologist Ancel Keys carefully examined the dietary habits of the people of the Mediterranean basin, comparing them with those of other countries.

The famous Seven Countries Study, led by Keys, observed the dietary habits and lifestyles of people in seven countries (USA, Finland, Holland, Italy, Greece, Japan and the former Yugoslavia), with the aim of understanding their effects on the wellbeing of the population, including a particular focus on the incidence of cardiovascular illnesses.

The study lasted for decades, enabling the researchers to compare the various diets in great detail. They concluded that:
  • in the Northern European countries, the most popular foods were milk, potatoes, animal fats and sweet foodstuffs;
  • the United States showed high levels of consumption of meat, fruit and sweet foodstuffs;
  • Italy showed high levels of consumption of grains (particularly in the form of bread and pasta) and wine;
  • in the former Yugoslavia, the most popular foods were bread, vegetables and fish;
  • Greece had high levels of consumption of olive oil and fruit;
  • in Japan, people ate mainly fish, rice and soy products.
Keys’ research made it possible to show that a diet based on the consumption of grains, vegetables, fruit, fish and olive oil was by far and away a preferable alternative to the typical diets of America and Northern Europe, which tended to be high in fats, animal protein and sugars.

Today, the Mediterranean diet has been included as part of UNESCO's Intangible Heritage of Humanity and its principles have been summarized in a Food Pyramid which sets out the amount and frequency whereby foods should be consumed during the day.
At the base of the Mediterranean diet pyramid there are foods that should be consumed multiple times a day, while at the top we find that foods that should be limited throughout the week.
What to eat in a Mediterranean diet – Fratelli Carli

The characteristics of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet features a series of foodstuffs which should be consumed every day in clearly defined proportions in order to obtain a balanced diet which includes all the macronutrients, according to the following rough split: 60% carbohydrates, 25-30% fats, 10-15% proteins.

According to the diet, people must consume 3 portions of unrefined grains, such as pasta, rice, bread, but also spelt or oats, 3 portions of fruit and 6 portions of vegetables every day.

Milk and yogurt can be consumed every day, while cheese should not be eaten more than twice a week.

Vegetable proteins, such as beans, are greatly preferable to animal proteins. Meat – preferably poultry – should be limited to once or twice a week, while fish is recommended 3 or 4 times a week.

In terms of fat, a maximum of 3 portions can be consumed per day according to the Mediterranean diet, with preference given to fats containing monounsaturated acids, particularly olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet involves reducing our intake of cured meats, spirits, white sugar, butter, fatty cheeses, white salt, beef, pork, lard and coffee. Sweet foodstuffs are permitted on special occasions.
What is the Mediterranean diet? – Fratelli Carli

Our Mediterranean recipes

The Mediterranean diet allows for the consumption of a vast variety of ingredients, meaning that we can prepare different and delicious dishes every single day. If you’re looking for inspiration, you've come to the right place! We’ve got some top tips for you.

To prepare a delicious pasta dish like Mediterranean-style vermicelli, all you need is a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. The pasta is served with capers, pine nuts, raisins, anchovies, olives, garlic, breadcrumbs, parsley and some good oil, such as our very own 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

If you’re looking for a vegetable-packed side dish that tastes a little different to what you're used to serving, try our Diced vegetables with Pesto fragrance, a mix of eggplant, zucchini and peppers which are baked in the oven and then dressed with a pinch of chili and a couple of spoonfuls of our Pesto.
Mediterranean foods – Fratelli Carli
Fish is one of the key foodstuffs in the Mediterranean diet – and it’s so versatile that you can try out a new recipe every time you eat it! Our favorite? These Fillets of Bream with Red Pesto Crust: a delicious main course featuring fillets of bream, baked with a crust made from breadcrumbs and some of our Red Pesto, plus a few capers, some parsley and a bit of garlic!

In the recipes section of our magazine, you can find loads more ideas on how to prepare the typical ingredients of the Mediterranean diet. Get inspired!