Through the years, we’ve learned so much about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, with olive oil, fresh vegetables, oily fish, and rustic whole grains. The Mediterranean diet is connected to lower cholesterol, better brain function in men with heart disease, reduced risk of late-onset Crohn’s disease, a better quality of life for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes – and that’s just a few of the diet‘s benefits! But, could we have missed an additional factor that makes Mediterranean-style eating healthier, such as how the countries in the region preserve their food? Sun- or air-drying vegetables and grain remove water that can facilitate the growth of harmful bacteria. Saltcuring or smoking also acts to inhibit bacterial growth by squeezing out water, as does sugar, when used to preserve fruit. Lastly, there’s the fermentation process by which pickles, yogourt, vinegar, and wine is created.
Fermentation creates healthy bacteria as it kills unhealthy microbes, resulting in a better-balanced, healthier gut biome. So, as we extol the virtues of eating the way the French and the Italians do… let’s not forget the ways these cultures preserve and ferment their foods, without the Western use of additives and preservatives!
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- Lutski M, et al. Nutritional Neuroscience. 2020 Jan; 22:1-9.