Besides being healthy for human health, the Mediterranean diet is also good for the environment. According to estimates, the environmental impact of the Mediterranean diet to produce 100 calories is almost 60% inferior to that of a typical Northern European diet.
UNESCO recognized that the Mediterranean diet pattern is not only a food model. The term diet, in fact, comes from the ancient Greek word diaita meaning (style of life) defining the social and culture significance of the Mediterranean diet. Given its positive effects on the social, economic, and environmental spheres of life, it can truly be considered a sustainable food model.
- Consumption of natural resources: The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of cereals, fruit, vegetables, and legumes whose production requires only natural resources (earth and water); there is consequently a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with respect to a food model based on a high intake of animal products.
- Seasonality: The Mediterranean diet is characterized by the consumption of foods respecting their seasonal availability; the quantity of glasshouse crops that are needed, the environmental impact, and the supply and cost of transportation from distant places/countries (food miles) are, in fact, all reduced.
- Biodiversity: The Mediterranean diet respects the territory and its biodiversity as different crops are planted in all areas and production is rotated in order to guarantee food safety.
- Frugality: Following the Mediterranean diet means eating medium sized portions and preferring whole grain fresh foods with respect to highly processed ones. Both the quantities consumed and the fewer stages of processing that foods undergo contribute to reducing the environmental impact of food consumption.
- Health: The Mediterranean diet together with physical activity helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and some types of tumors (colorectal, breast, prostate, pancreas, and the endometrial). Fresh whole grain foods contain more micronutrients and antioxidants.
- Awareness: The Mediterranean diet promotes greater food awareness and ties to the territory, knowledge about seasonality, biodiversity, and the nature of food products.
- Conviviality: The Mediterranean diet promotes social interaction as eating meals together is the cornerstone of the region’s holiday celebrations and social traditions.
- Identity: The Mediterranean diet is an expression of the entire historic and cultural system of the Mediterranean Region. It is a millenary food tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation promoting not only the quality of foods and their territorial characterization but also a dialogue between peoples.
- Health Costs: As stricter adherence to the food habits of the Mediterranean diet would improve the population’s health status, this would ultimately lead to a reduction in national health care expenditures.
- Household costs: Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and choosing foods in season and prevalently grains and vegetables leads to spending less money on food.
- Promotes Business: Diffusion of the Mediterranean diet model leads to an increase in the demand for natural products (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes…) and their derivatives (oil, wine, pasta, bread…) creating income and employment for businesses located in the Mediterranean regions.
- Promotes the territories: The diffusion of the Mediterranean diet model would promote the agricultural-gastronomic demand of our territories, making tourism more popular throughout the year and not exclusively a summer time phenomenon.