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The Mediterranean diet: A model for Americans

February 01, 2008

The Mediterranean diet: A model for Americans

No matter where they live on our vast and wonderful planet, people are people. But if all humans share a common biologic backbone, the peoples of the earth display a remarkable diversity of cultural norms. Language, religion, family structure, governance, music, dance, sports, and clothing are all subject to amazing cultural differences. And the human diet is every bit as diverse as the other cultural traditions.

All people eat to live, but the foods they choose depend on complex interactions between climate, geography, national resources, religion, and tradition. Each culture has its signature dishes; for example, Asians are noted for rice, noodles, and soy, Italians for pasta and bread, Germans for meat and potatoes, the French for wine and cheese, Latinos for corn, beans, and rice, and (alas!) Americans for hamburgers and fries. As migration, travel, and the global economy shrink our world, dietary diversity has diminished. But before variety becomes the exception, Americans should consider adopting the best nutritional traditions from other cultures, not just for the occasional pleasure of ethnic dining, but as a healthful pattern for everyday life. And one of the best — and most easily attained — patterns is the traditional Mediterranean diet.

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