Culture and Tradition Of Southern Europe

The Mediterranean diet is linked to Italy's cultural and gastronomic traditions, in which agriculture played a primary role. These traditions tend to survive more in the south than in the north of Italy, also because the climatic and environmental conditions of the former are more favourable to the cultivation of those products on which the diet is based (cereals, pulses, olives, vegetables and fruit).

The term 'diet' is today used inappropriately, linked as it is to the idea of a food regime envisaged for specific pathologies, or, in any case, disorders, of our body. But the ancient Greeks used the term to mean 'way of life' and hence a correct eating discipline compatible with a healthy lifestyle. Today, we should return to the original meaning of the term and rediscover the eating habits of the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean basin, putting on our table food with a consolidated tradition as regards its healthy properties.

Up to the first half of the twentieth century, Italians' diet was based primarily on the consumption of cereals, pulses, vegetables, milk, cheese, fish, olive oil; meat was not a frequent dish. With the economic boom and the years of affluence, the Italians turned their backs on this 'poor' diet and adopted new eating habits, imported from the more industrialised countries: they began to consume mainly meat, animal fats, sugars and to generally eat too much. Diet has always been conditioned by socio-environmental and economic factors. The upshot of this were increasingly frequent problems of over-weight and the so-called illness of affluence: coronary heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and gout.


In "Seven Country" published in the USA an interesting report drawn up by a commission consisting of internationally famous dieticians set up by the US Senate. The report concluded that coronary heart diseases are directly related to the type of diet followed in the industrialised countries, which privileges the consumption of food rich in saturated fats and cholesterol. 

The report also concluded that these diseases were less frequent in countries which adopted the so-called Mediterranean diet. The internationally famous nutritionist Ancel Key, a member of the commission, visited the Mediterranean countries and discovered that the dietary traditions of Italy, Spain, Greece, the south of France, northern Africa and the Middle East were the more correct and healthy for man's needs.