Insights on the Mediterranean Diet: Notes From Our Tour in Tuscany

By September 30, 2011Uncategorized

The American diet is known to be high in saturated fats. Not so in Italy. Olive oil rules the day. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat (one double bond, whereas polyunsaturated oils have more than one double bone… for those interested). Between the olive oil (served with lunch and dinner), a glass of red wine ( lots of antioxidants to help regulate cholesterol levels) and many great spices, from garlic to basal to sage and rosemary, what has become known as the “Mediterranean diet” is renowned for decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease. Here are some interesting facts we learned about olive oil while here in the Tuscany region: Olives are generally harvested in the fall (FYI the drought here has taken its toll on the olives). Once collected, they are pressed immediately for their oil. Virgin olive oil is pressed a cool temperature. The reason being: heat and light make oils go rancid (aside from not tasting good, rancid oils can act like free radicals and destroy cell membranes, RNA, DNA and mitochondria— Not good!). Virgin olive oil must have a low pH; with a higher the pH, it gets a different classification. A bottle of olive oil should be kept in a dark place, (not over the stove, and from what we learned, no Italians keep it in the fridge where it solidifies). The best containers are tin or dark glass, to keep the light out, and we were told on our tour that a good bottle has a years’ shelf life …at most! (Check your kitchen). As a side note, I am convinced that a BIG part of the Mediterranean diet, never discussed, is eating with friends and family. Support groups certainly affect one’s health status, and no Italians eat alone!

Stress Tip for the Day:

Check the oils your kitchen, particularly the olive oil. Open it and smell it. Rancid oils typically don’t smell good. If you have had the bottle for more than a year, you might with to consider replacing it with a fresh bottle. Italians love to cook with olive oil, so consider placing a bottle on your dinner table to have with a piece of bread, or over a dish of pasta (covered in ragu, pesto or cream sauce). Include more monounsaturated oils in your diet…

Links/Books/Movies Worth Noting:

For more information on the Mediterranean diet, here are a few links…

Quote for the Day:

“Every now and then consider gifting a friend of family member with a bottle of great olive oil.” —Luigi Pascatore

Photo for the Day:

I am writing this blog entry from our Spirit of Tuscany tour (more about that later), and the other day we took a tour through an olive oil pressing plant (pictured above) where, after the tour of the plant, we were invited to sample the oil… We also went to a winery and everyone was invited to sample the wine, but that’s a different story. Simply fascinating… Enjoy….Ciao!

Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned expert in the fields of stress management, mind-body-spirit healing and stress and human spirituality. He is the author of over 10 books including the bestsellers, Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backward, The Art of Calm, Quiet Mind, Fearless Heart and Managing Stress (7E) and the forthcoming, A Beautiful World; The Earth Songs Journals. He can be reached through his website:

© Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D.

Brian Luke Seaward

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