Skip to main content

Is the med diet better for you?

Updated Saturday, 20th May 2000

Keith Floyd goes food shopping in sunny Seville, to find out if a Mediterranean diet really is the healthy option

This page was published over 22 years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see how we deal with older content.

Keith Floyd Keith Floyd is best known as a great chef and a great drinker. But not many people know is that he now lives in Spain. Here he enjoys the climate, the relaxed lifestyle, the wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables and also the wine. Ever Wondered sent him out onto the streets of Seville to see if all the fuss about the healthy Mediterranean diet is true or just a load of tosh…

Keith’s first visit is to the olive plantations to meet Javier Sanchez Perona, a research scientist at the Seville Institute of Fat.

Javier Sanchez Perona Keith: So what are you actually working on?

Javier Sanchez Perona: We are currently researching the effects of fat on health.

Keith: So what’s so good about olive oil then?

Javier Sanchez Perona: The most important characteristic of olive oil is the high amount of oleic acid. This is one of the fatty acids contained in olive oil. It accounts for about 75% of total fatty acids. The main reason why olive oil is so special is because it can reduce the risk of mortality from cardio vascular diseases. This is achieved by reducing the total amount of cholesterol in the plasma and increasing the levels of good cholesterol.

Javier with olive oil Keith: So in fact it’s much better than animal fat. But there is one question I have to ask you, the Spanish eat an awful lot of ham and very fatty pork, how do you justify that?

Parma ham Javier Sanchez Perona: Yes it’s true that we eat a lot of ham pork, but in Spain we have a special kind of pig, an Iberian pig, which is special because they eat acorns and they are allowed to exercise. Also they have a fatty acid composition which is very similar to that of olive oil.

Keith: But why do you say that we should use more olive oil in our food?

Javier Sanchez Perona: Well I think it’s very interesting that in spite of being more expensive than other vegetable oils, it lasts longer when it is used for frying. This is because the fatty acid and the minor component composition, makes olive oil more resistant to oxidation by heating.

If you would like to find out more on important health issues then have a look at course U205 Health and Disease

After Keith’s quick tour of the olive groves, a coffee in the Bull Bar and then lunch with Professor Jose Vega from Seville University is the order of the day…

Keith: Is the Mediterranean diet as healthy as people think?

Prof. Jose Vega: Yes, I think so. We eat for energy and nutrition and the energy giving food should be 60% carbohydrate, 30% fats, and 10% proteins. A Mediterranean diet keeps to these ideal proportions because it uses few industrialised products that contain salt, animal fats, and sugar and instead uses fresh fruits and vegetables which contain fibre, vitamins, and minerals.

Keith: So how does the body use these ingredients?

Prof. Jose Vega: The body use oxygen as a fuel to burn food stuff and produces energy, but during the process some oxygen liberties are forming. These namely attack the biological tissue particularly the cell membrane, making the organisms susceptible to degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, cancer or even Alzheimers. So to help the organism fight against this situation we have a body of enzymes which needs vitamins and minerals in order for it to be fully active. That’s where the Mediterranean diet steps in, as it supplies all the essential ingredients.

If you would like to explore the everyday aspects of health and enhanced wellbeing then have a look at course K203 Working for Health

A trip to Seville wouldn’t be complete without tasting the local wine, so Keith decides to meet up with Dr Ana Troncoso find out if a glass of wine can actually help the diet…

Dr Ana Troncosco

Keith: I have been told by experts that the Mediterranean diet is good for you, I know that olive oil is good for you. But what about this wonderful stuff, red wine, this can’t be good for us?

Dr. Ana Troncoso: It is very beneficial for us, red wine contains antioxidants called flabaloids which are very beneficial for your health.

Keith: Does that apply just to red wine?

Dr. Ana Troncoso: It’s mainly red wine because red wine is made with the whole grape, with all the solid parts, the flesh, the skin and the pips. White wine and rosé wine are made just with the juice. So they have anti-oxidants but they are poorer. We have also discovered now, that another compound which also comes from the skin of the grape, called respiratol has anti-cancer activity. So we could say that red wine not only helps you to prevent cardio-vascular diseases, but also possibly cancer and other degenerative diseases.

If you would like to find out more about this subject, here are a few suggestions.

Books you can read

Healthy Mediterranean, Hermes House, ISBN 1840382244

Healthy Food Directory, Michael Van Straten, Gill And Macmillan, ISBN 0717128814

Olive Oil: From Tree to Table, Peggy Knickerbocker, Chronicle Books, ISBN 0811813509

Eat Your Way To A Healthy Heart, Liz Applegate, ISBN 0735200335

Encyclopaedia of Spanish and Portugese Wines, McWhirter, Prenctice Hall and IBD, ISBN 0671759558

Links You Can Surf

For more information on Mediterranean Food

Also on this site : You can join Britt Ekland as she delves into the LA Health Scene and George Ellison as he finds out how we could all could be healthier

If you think you might be interested in studying more about these subjects, find out what the Open University has to offer.

The BBC and the Open University are not responsible for the content of external websites.


Become an OU student


Ratings & Comments

Share this free course

Copyright information

Skip Rate and Review

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?