Is the Lebanese diet making us live longer? The traditional food of the Lebanese culture is a Middle Eastern version of the Mediterranean Diet, which has been found to be healthy and protective. The diet is rich in plant based protein such as chickpeas (hommos), lentils (adas), and beans (fasoulya) that make up our stews, a great amount of vegetables and fruits, and abundant amounts of olive oil on everything, literally… everything!
The health benefits
Decreased risk of heart disease and mortality
Decreased risk of certain types of cancer
Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Increase in life expectancy
What makes up a Mediterranean Diet?
High amounts of plant foods
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and fiber. Plant foods also include whole grain cereals, nuts, and beans and legumes. Legumes provide the body with lean sources of protein and fiber. Choosing raw nuts as snacks will also add healthy fats.
Olive oil is the main source of fat
The key feature of this diet is the olive oil, rich in healthy fats (mono-unsaturated fats), which promote heart health and decrease inflammation.
High amounts of fish
Fish is a lean source of protein and results in a decreased fat intake as compared to red meat. Try consuming fish at least twice per week. Fish contains healthy fats known as omega-3 fatty acids that protect against heart disease.
Low intake of red meat and full fat dairy products
These contain high amounts of saturated fats (unhealthy fats) that lead to increasing cholesterol levels. Substitute fish and chicken as protein sources and avoid high fat meats such as sausages. Try switching to low fat milk, yogurt and cheeses.
Moderate intake of wine
Although the health benefits of alcohol are debatable, the Mediterranean Diet is associated with a moderate intake of wine (2 drinks for males, 1 drink for females).
In addition, the diet recognizes using herbs and spices to flavor foods instead of salt and increasing physical activity.
What should we watch out for in our traditional cuisine?
The traditional cuisine has been transforming to include high fat and fried foods. The increased intake of sweets, including Arabic sweets, lead to a deviation from the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.