The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and depression and increases overall life expectancy.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and depression and increases overall life expectancy. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Mediterranean Diet

My recent holiday to Turkey got me thinking about the British (and ‘Western’) diet and how bad it is for our health and the planet.

Sitting on the terrace in the sunshine, looking out over the blue Mediterranean Sea, the waiter brought our breakfast.  Home-made bread, green olives and black olives, butter, apricot jam, a choice of three goat cheeses, tomatoes, cucumber, fresh herbs, peppers, walnuts and a boiled egg.  I looked at the spread laid out in front of me and thought how different this was from the hotels I was used to.  Normally, I’d be offered highly processed cereals, a cooked fried meaty breakfast, sugary muffins and highly processed bread accompanied by jam in plastic sachets.

Here, there is no plastic at our table.  Everything (except the tea) is local, either grown in the hotel garden or produced in the village.  The food is fresh, picked this morning or yesterday, and made from raw ingredients with little processing and no additives or preservatives.  My only gripe is that they have served us with too much food, and I hate food waste.  However, unlike in some countries, I suspect this waste food is not put in a plastic bag, left to decompose partially, and then taken by truck to a landfill.  It will likely be fed to the chickens running around our table or to the numerous stray cats and dogs.

The Mediterranean Diet

I googled ‘the Mediterranean Diet’.  Meals are built around vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, whole grains, olive oil, and moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and eggs.  A Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression and increases overall life expectancy. More importantly, perhaps, older people can lead more productive and active lives as they tend not to be obese and are more agile.  What’s not to like?

Also, there is a happy coincidence that a strong correlation exists between a healthy diet and a low-carbon diet.  Red meat is associated with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, followed by dairy products (milk, cheese, chocolate), whilst sugar is moderately high too.  Processing and packaging foods in factories adds to the carbon footprint.  The lowest emissions are associated with fruit and vegetables, pulses, peas, beans, and nuts – all of which are healthy.

Additionally, individuals exploring diverse dietary choices may find valuable insights into the health benefits of beef jerky, considering its nutritional profile and convenience, as discussed in this informative article on

So, if our Western diet is proven to be bad for us and bad for the planet, what are our governments doing about it?  Not a lot, as far as I can see.  The only substantial measure in the UK was the introduction of the ‘sugar tax’ targeted solely at soft drinks.  It’s a tiny step in the right direction. The lobbyists from the major food manufacturers and farm producers are too powerful for most governments to choose to stand up to.  Report after independent report recommends further action to help consumers, but these recommendations are swept away, delayed or watered down.

Can I act Locally?

Yes, this is one area where local action will make some difference.  Grow vegetables in your garden, rent an allotment, and visit community-owned farms.  Buy fruit and vegetables; use veggie boxes, local greengrocers, markets, or whatever is available to you.

Buy fewer take-away meals (are any healthy?), buy fewer ultra-processed foods, and eat less meat.  Buy fewer ready-made meals for your microwave.

If you are a campaigning community environmental group member, perhaps your group could run local cookery classes.  This would be an effective way to engage with your members and reach a new audience.

But there is only so much that you can do yourself when we are surrounded by advertising and marketing messages and when food manufacturers, grocers, supermarkets and takeaways promote unhealthy food.

What could governments do?

There is so much that governments could do.  But they don’t seem inclined to do so, as it would be ‘interfering in people’s lives’.  Is making our lives better “interfering”?

  • Share and highlight the results of studies on ultra-processed foods
  • Extend the sugar tax; this sends a message and nudges behaviour.
  • Promote (subsidise) local markets and greengrocers
  • Prepare healthy meals in prisons and schools.
  • Create a programme of cookery classes for adults at colleges or online
  • Regulate to improve labelling and force reductions in salt, sugar and saturated fats.

A mixture of carrot and stick.  If you think this is not possible, then think again.  Finland had the worst rate of heart disease in the Western world in the 1970s.  A sustained government campaign of education, regulation and working with communities has turned this around.  The campaign tackled poor diet, smoking and exercise.  The dietary campaign focused on reducing the intake of full-fat milk and red meat and increasing the consumption of local berries and vegetables.  Finland now has a higher life expectancy than the UK.                                                                                                    


Our Western diet is poor and getting worse.  This adversely impacts on our mental and physical health.  We know this, yet do nothing about it.  We need a sustained community-based campaign championed by a motivated government to change our behaviours.  This would benefit communities, our health and well-being and the planet.

Read past articles by Neil Kitching:

New Year’s Climate Optimism

My Electric Vehicle Adventures 

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