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Food Processing and the Mediterranean Diet

processedmeditdiet kalikardia 625The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet (MD) for protecting against chronic disorders such as cardiovascular disease are usually attributed to high consumption of certain food groups such as vegetables, and low consumption of other food groups such as meat.
The influence of food processing techniques such as food preparation and cooking on the nutrient composition and nutritional value of these foods is not generally taken into consideration. In this narrative review (ie scientific paper), the authors consider the mechanistic and epidemiological evidence that food processing influences phytochemicals in selected food groups in the MD (olives, olive oil, vegetables and nuts), and that this influences the protective effects of these foods against chronic diseases associated with inflammation.
They also examine how the pro-inflammatory properties of meat consumption can be modified by Mediterranean cuisine.

The importance of considering the MD as more than just its food components is widely recognized.
According to UNESCO's broad definition, the MD includes "a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing,cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food". Other commentators have also emphasized the importance to the MD of practices such as food preparation methods and physical activity, eating patterns and the absence of, or type of, snacking between meals. Recent updates of the MD pyramid also emphasize "the production, selection, processing and consumption of foods" and other aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle (relative Table is included in the study) . In this review/paper, further evidence of the importance of these wider considerations are provided. In particular, there ara identified several examples of food processing pertinent to the MD that can have a significant impact on the nutritional qualities of foods such as olives, olive oil and vegetables that are consumed as part of a MD.
Contrasting with this perspective, it is often considered that effectively promoting a MD in non-Mediterranean countries requires taking into consideration the cultural cuisine of the country in question, and allowing for the ways food items are typically prepared and cooked in the adopting country. This potentially creates a mismatch between tailoring the MD to non-Mediterranean cuisines whilst at the same time respecting the specific cultural aspects of traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Fortunately, advice on food processing pertinent to the MD is, in most cases, still compatible with the cultural cuisine of consumers in non-Mediterranean countries, since it merely involves changing cooking practices (such as stewing rather than boiling vegetables) or selecting healthier variants of foods (e.g., of olives and olive oil).

The full published paper can be read in the Nutrients Journal (though most readers will find it too technical).
* photo and Greek adaptation by, edited by 

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