Why we should all think Mediterranean when we eat

news: Why we should all think Mediterranean when we eat

By Sue Hall

On Saturday February 23, Jorge Botelho, Mayor of Tavira, launched the exhibition Dieta Mediterrânica (Mediterranean Diet) at the Palácio da Galeria.

The exhibition explores the intangible cultural heritage of human health and nutrition found in the Mediterranean diet.

This is a timely exhibition aimed at a variety of audiences. Only this week, another report has credited the Mediterranean diet with reducing heart attacks and strokes.

According to the New York Times, “about 30% of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found”.

The findings, published on The New England Journal of Medicine’s website on Monday were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks.

The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts and the study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.

The show explores the region’s intangible cultural heritage of food related to good health
The show explores the region’s intangible cultural heritage of food related to good health

Tavira, as community representative for Portugal, is involved in a transnational project to gain recognition from UNESCO for the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity that is the Mediterranean diet. The Application also involves Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Morocco because of the shared common heritage.

The Mediterranean diet comes from the Greek term díaita meaning lifestyle.Over the past 3,000 years, around the Mediterranean human societies have developed a way of life, passed down from generation to generation, which integrates diverse systems of knowledge and agricultural production techniques, navigation and fisheries, symbolic rituals, cyclical festivities, sociability and a balanced and healthy food model, already recognised by UNESCO (2010) and the World Health Organisation.

The exhibition shows how the Mediterranean is so much more than just a sea or a geographical location. It is a way of seeing, thinking and acting.

The area enjoys a temperate climate with hot dry summers, strong light and relatively mild winters. The Mediterranean has, for centuries, been a gathering place for ancient civilisations, creating a particular way of life.

The culture of food reflects a system of values that overlaps into symbolic and religious traditions, in the sacred, symbolic rituals, fasting, prohibitions, restrictions, processions, offerings, purifications, fertility and harvesting ceremonies.

The Algarve is the “amphitheatre” that faces south, protected by hills, and is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean climate. The area has developed a non-irrigated cultural harvest of cork trees, olive trees, carob trees, almond trees, vines, herbs, some cereals, kitchen gardens, animal husbandry, salt flats, wild flowers and bees producing luscious honey.

The history of Tavira and the cultural practices of its inhabitants are deeply connected to the Mediterranean. Thereare rich landscapes, extensive lagoon areas, orchards of citrus, rivers and valleys with small agricultural villages …

Throughout the last millennium, the area has achieved a balance between humans and nature within interdependent rural communities. Seasonal migrations and agricultural work cycles based upon the seasons of the year are similar throughout the Mediterranean area.

This exhibition shows how the Mediterranean diet represents the balance between humans and nature and this is characterised by locally produced, simple, fresh seasonal products.

The exhibition can be visited until May 2014 from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 12.30pm and from 2pm to 5.30pm.

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