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Seeking the true elixir of life? Follow the mediterranean diet

Culture / -

dieta med. elisir di lunga vita
Crostini with Feta, Figs and Green Grapes_© Schmidhofer, Christina/the food passionates/Corbis

Discovered by two renowned American nutritionists, it has been recognized by UNESCO, FAO and WHO. It is not just a diet, but a way of life dedicated to sustainability and taste.

The essence of the mediterranean diet consists of eating fruits and vegetables (preferably locally produced), legumes, cereals, oily fish, a little cheese, a little meat and extra virgin olive oil. The anthropologist Marino Niola, in his preface to the essay by Elizabeth Moro The Mediterranean Diet. Myth and History of a Way of Life, defined it as a philosophy of life comprising healthy food, without overindulgence, reduced levels of stress and clean air.
Who discovered it?
Two leading scientists, who are also husband and wife, Ancel Keys and Margaret Haney, appreciated its value after staying for 34 years in Pioppi, in the province of Salerno, and define it as a diet that is low in fat but rich in taste, characterizing the food of peoples along the coast of Mediterranean Sea: Italy, Spain, France, Morocco, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Croatia.
A heritage site diet
Considered by FAO, (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) as one of the more sustainable models of agri-food in the world and recognized by WHO, (World Health Organization)  as one of the healthiest diets in 2010, the mediterranean diet, together with its many culinary skills, has been recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO (Organization of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
Brief history
8,000 years before Christ, Chickpeas, lentils and beans made ​​up the diet of middle-eastern civilizations, while vegetables, fruit, cheese, wine, bread and oil were consumed by the Greeks and Romans at the dawn of their culture. The mediterranean diet, however, while retaining a steady base of elements over time, evolved and expanded, incorporating foods from the New World such as beans, potatoes, tomatoes and pasta, introduced to the diet only at the beginning of the 19th century thanks to milled durum wheat from south Russia.
Interesting facts
According to Keys, the mediterranean diet continues to change in favor of an increasing intake of meat and dairy products. Sweets, meat and dairy products have, in just a few decades, become an integral part of everyday life in the countries bordering the Mediterranean; wherea until the 1950s they would rarely be found at the dinner table, reserved only for special occasions such as weddings and baptisms.

Fruit trees flowering in spring

Sustainability / -

1 di 1
The almond tree
The almond tree
The apricot tree
The apricot tree
The peach tree
The peach tree
The plum tree
The plum tree
The apple tree
The apple tree
The cherry tree
The cherry tree

When the first flowers appear on the leafless branches of the fruit trees typical of the Mediterranean area, then spring is on its way. The almond tree is the first to blossom, its white flowers with their delicate pinkish hue making their appearance in February, followed soon after by the apricot, whose fragrant flowers are bright-white and the peach, whose blooms are of a distinctive pink shade. Between April and May, the plum tree follows suit, while the cherry tree boasts leaves along with its blooms. In all cases, the flowering season is very short, the petals falling after a few days, to make way for the nascent fruits.

Five questions for Oxfam Italy. Here's how natural products are distributed in Sri Lanka

Innovation / -

Non solo agricoltura tradizionale in Sri Lanka
Courtesy of Oxfam Italia

A network of farmers are focused on organic production, which will be replicated in other areas of the country. The Italian NGO, which is actively working with more than 3.000 local partners in various parts of the world, answers our questions on the project.

At Expo Milano 2015, the photo-story displayed in Pavilon Zero will be another opportunity to learn about Oxfam's projects. What message would you like to convey with your approach to the issue of food security?
We must ensure that those most vulnerable, who earn their livelihood and income from the food produced by agriculture, have long-lasting access to water, land and seeds of resistant varieties. Furthermore, the adoption of cultivation techniques must save crops from climatic stress, from serious pollution of aquifers and reduce risky investments in the purchase of chemical and hybrid products.
What have you had to change with respect to the original plan?
The severe weather conditions, coming from seasonal alternations between prolonged droughts and devastating floods, have highlighted the need to ensure an improvement in direct access to water, with the construction of 40 wells per 148 beneficiaries (mainly female-headed households). To reach the beneficiaries, who originate from various ethnic groups and war refugees, additional effort during training and assistance in the introduction of new techniques and a collective approach to the markets has been requested.
Since the submission date, what new results have you achieved?
At the end of the project in May 2014, the first group of 300 farmers will receive organic certification of their products. Moreover, the Toxin Free Products (TFP) Network, which groups the 19 villages’ beneficiaries, has started commercial operations on site and has designed the first range of spices and teas for export (Oxfam Trade Australia). It has also been selected as a research project partner, presented by the University of Bologna to the European Union.
What are the next steps?
We will look to expand the markets and enhance the organic products of the communities involved in the production of Toxin Free Products: organic-only product district markets are under construction as well as a national web portal to promote products, and a project for the creation of a “Powered by Women” certification was presented, thanks to the involvement of a number of cooperatives, formed by women.
Do you intend to replicate the project in other countries or in other contexts?
The program is expanding to nine other neighbouring communities, nine cooperatives and 900 “vulnerable” families, who will be incorporated into the TFP Network. The planning aims to further replicate this in neighbouring districts, with the aim of strengthening the network of producers and increasing the quality and volume of production that will be offered on the markets.

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