One common myth about the Mediterranean diet is that it's all about the food - getting enough olive oil, nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruit, and fish; finding the best recipes; and using the best methods to prepare ingredients. However, good food alone isn't enough to live a healthy life. The lifestyle component of the Mediterranean diet is equally important.
In addition to touting regular exercise and healthy foods, the Mediterranean lifestyle emphasizes social interaction, quality over quantity, and beauty in simplicity. There are many reasons why living this lifestyle leads people to a life of health, meaning, and happiness, and it's no
surprise that the Mediterranean diet is often referred to as a "way of life" rather than a diet designed for the sole purpose of losing weight.
One recent study published in
Clinical Psychological Science
examined the link between the lifestyle component of the Mediterranean diet and improved mental health. Scientists examined 11,800 people in Spain, and asked how much they exercised, what they normally ate, and how much time they spent socializing with friends. They concluded that those who adhered to the Mediterranean lifestyle the most were less likely to develop depression than those who didn't. The findings were consistent with previous research examining the
connection between social interaction and psychological well-being
One of the easiest ways to incorporate more social interaction into your daily routine is by sharing meals with others. Mediterranean cultures are known for their "family-style" meals, shared plates such as
mezze, and social events such as festivals centered around food. Mealtime is sacred there; it brings people together, sparks interesting conversation, and encourages slower and more mindful eating.
The Mediterranean lifestyle also emphasizes quality over quantity, in every aspect of life, from food to relationships to daily routines. Focusing on life's simple pleasures, like enjoying a meal with family or tasting a tomato straight from the garden, often leads to a more meaningful life.
Mediterranean cooks stay conscious about quality by not buying more food than they need, and if they do find day-old ingredients remaining in their kitchens, they incorporate them into meals in delicious ways. Many traditional recipes stem from a need to extend ingredients to feed a crowd. They are impressive, yet simple. One great Mediterranean recipe that incorporates a food that otherwise might be considered past its prime is
fattoush salad. "
Fatta" are dishes that incorporate leftover pita, and in
fattoush, this pita comes in the form of croutons. After the pita is torn into small pieces and tossed in a pan with some olive oil, the bread becomes crispy and adds a crunch to any salad.
Eating together and eating simply make for the best eating. Check out our Mediterranean recipes below for inspiration, and share them with friends and family.