Written by Tracey Kellett, Registered Nutritionist

The Mediterranean diet is a flexible eating pattern containing seasonal, locally sourced foods abundant in the Mediterranean region, which we can access worldwide, and have cultural foods here in Aotearoa, New Zealand, with similar health benefits.

The Mediterranean diet is not a rigid set of rules but rather a flexible eating pattern inspired by the culinary traditions of countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, and southern France. Its origins trace back centuries and are characterised by eating seasonal, locally sourced foods in the Mediterranean region. These days, we can access these foods here and have cultural foods in Aotearoa, New Zealand, with similar health benefits. For people with osteoarthritis, the Mediterranean diet is the one.

The Mediterranean diet emphasises: 

  • Abundant plant foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and olive oil form the foundation of the diet.
  • Moderate consumption of fish and poultry: fish, especially oily varieties like salmon and sardines, are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is also included in moderation.
  • Limited red meat: red meat is consumed sparingly, with meals often featuring leaner options like lamb or grass-fed beef as occasional treats rather than dietary staples.
  • Dairy in moderation: Greek yoghurt and cheese can be enjoyed in moderation. They provide calcium and probiotics while keeping saturated fat intake in check. Moderate low-fat dairy intake has been associated with low inflammation.
  • Limited processed food and refined carbohydrates/sugar.
  • Red wine in moderation: although a hallmark of the Mediterranean diet is the enjoyment of red wine in moderation, typically with meals, there is agreement that the negative impacts on health from alcohol itself outweigh any benefits from the antioxidants in red wine, and it’s better to eat grapes for antioxidants rather than drink wine. 

The cultural and social aspects of the Mediterranean diet:

Beyond its nutritional benefits, the Mediterranean diet encompasses cultural and social elements contributing to its overall appeal. Meals are often enjoyed leisurely with family and friends, fostering community and connection. The emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients also encourages a closer connection to local food systems and sustainable agriculture practices. There are similar food practices in the traditional Māori way of eating where gathering kai, eating in season, having family gardens, and eating together are everyday norms. Although sometimes this isn’t always possible, it’s still common practice for many Māori and other New Zealanders. 

Why the Mediterranean diet?

In recent years, amidst a plethora of fad diets and conflicting nutritional advice, one dietary approach has stood the test of time and garnered widespread acclaim for its health benefits: the Mediterranean diet.

Rooted in the traditional eating patterns of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, this diet has captured the attention of health experts and food enthusiasts alike for its delicious flavours, diverse array of foods, and numerous health benefits. It is the one diet recommended for people with all types of arthritis.

There’s growing evidence that for people with inflammatory types of arthritis, an elimination-type diet may benefit in identifying trigger foods. Still, the Mediterranean diet is a great place to start before you try eliminating foods and food groups. A move towards a Mediterranean-style way of eating may even lead to reduced symptoms so that you don’t have to try the more limited and strict elimination diet. 

Read more about the Mediterranean diet:

Health eating patterns – the Mediterranean diet

 

Upcoming Events:

To learn more about how to move your diet towards a Mediterranean one in Aotearoa, join Tracey at our May 2024 Zoom Café, where she will discuss how easily this can be done on a budget and adding to the meals and foods you already eat.

Thursday 30th May 2024, 7 – 8 pm 

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