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Comparison of Indian and Mediterranean Diet


13 MARCH 2017


In nutrition, the term "diet" identifies the intake of adequate level of essential nutrients which are vital for the effective functioning of the body and various metabolic mechanisms. Humans, generally speaking practice an omnivorous diet however the dietary pattern of folks vary in accordance with the region and personal diet preferences. The selective dietary behaviour among people resulted in the emergence of various type of diet categories such as ketogenic diet, fruitarian diet, vegan diet, pescetarian diet and carnivorous diet.

Mediterranean diet emphasizes on the intake of plant based foods, healthy fats such as canola and essential olive oil, alcohol in moderate quantity, poultry and fish instead of red meat which is considered to be a balanced health diet and the Indian diet includes a higher proportion of carbohydrates. The essay specifically focuses on comparing the dietary pattern of Indian and Mediterranean diet.

Literature review

  • Mediterranean diet

Mediterranean diet identifies the original dietary pattern that is highly practiced in the Mediterranean region. The original Mediterranean emphasize on the bigger consumption of fruits and nuts, legumes, unprocessed cereals, minimal consumption of meat and milk products. Adefinition to Mediterranean diet was first made by Ancel Keys as the diet which is lower in fats and high in vegetable oils that was initially seen in Greece and Southern region of Italy. Olive oil constitutes the main element element in the Mediterranean diet and the monounsaturated fatty acid and antioxidant content in olive has found to demonstrate profound effect in the control of coronary heart diseases, various cancers and age-related cognitive disorders(Keys, 1995). Olive oil comprises about 55-85% of monounsaturated oleic acid content and abundant with antioxidant compounds such as vitamin E and a variety of phenolic compounds such as hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol and complex phenolic compounds (Visioli & Galli, 2001). The unique feature about the Mediterranean diet in comparison to other healthy diets is the fact that it limits the intake of alcohol during meal and the foundation of fat in the Mediterranean diet are Virgin essential olive oil, tree nuts and fatty fish. Another key ingredient of the Mediterranean diet is the legume which includes proven to lower the incidence of cardiovascular system disease (CHD). Legumes are composed of larger proportion of bean protein and water soluble fibres and serves as a good way to obtain proteins, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and non-starch polysaccharides. Fish is another prime ingredient of the Mediterranean diet which is a rich way to obtain long chain omega-3 essential fatty acids and confers a lot of health advantages. Alcohol intake pattern in the Mediterranean diet has considerably decreased the mortality rate. Recent clinical tests show that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the incidence of breast cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and cardiac diseases(Trichopoulou et al. , 2014).

  • South Indian diet

The Indian traditional foods are referred to as functional foods as it includes functional components such as body-healing chemicals, dietary fibres and probiotic constituents in it. The functional properties are improved via food processing techniques such as sprouting, malting and fermentation. The normal dietary pattern of south India includes the grain-based foods such as idly, Dosa (fermented foods), white or brown rice, dhals such as toor, urad, Bengal gram and mung, animal protein foods include fish, chicken, lamb, mutton and eggs, green and starchy vegetables, fruit or fruit juices, desserts such as kheer created from reduced milk and white sugar, jilebi, appam and Pongal made from brown sugar based cooked rice and lentils and desserts crafted from jaggery such as Halwa (MISRA, 2011). The grain-based foods have a higher calorific value and confer a lot of health advantages when contained in diet. Idly and dosa falls under the group of fermented food products prepared from rice and black gram by steam cooking. Fermentation process enhances the nutritional and protein efficiency value and the fermentative bacteria is capable of synthesising vitamin B12 and beta-galactosidase enzyme which promotes the promotes the probiotic activity and confer health advantages. Idly is more digestible due to fermentation process and it is widely consumed as breakfast meal. The food items that is widely consumed for lunch are the rice meal such as the rice, dahi (Indian yogurt), Non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. The rice meal is rich in carbohydrates, Vegetable dishes such as Sambar ( mixed vegetable curry), Rasam, Vazhai poo poriyal which is prepared out of small chopped pieces of banana floret seasoned with green chilly, mustard, onion and coconut which is highly nutritious and is effective against diabetes and heart burn, Non-vegetarian dishes are prepared out of red meat that happen to be rich gravies composed of fats and salts, dahi or Indian yogurt is abundant with B-complex vitamins, folic acid and riboflavin and lactic acid bacteria which exhibit probiotic effect and controls diarrhoea in children. The dinner preparation includes the chapatti (indian bread) which is manufactured out of wheat flour and fish gravy (indian style fish curry). Wheat is highly nutritious due to its high content of protein and fibre. Similarly, the fish used in the dietary plan is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and minerals which makes it an ample diet as it confers a lot of health advantages. (Sarkar, Dhumal, Panigrahi, & Choudhary, 2015)

  • Comparative study of Indian diet with Mediterranean diet and other diets(Trichopoulou et al. , 2014)
  • Oil used:

In India cooking oils differ region wise, certain mono unsaturated fatty acid like ground nut oil, mustard oil and rice bran oil commonly used in India has similar nutritional properties to olive oil which is widely used in the Mediterranean. However, oils found in India don't show any effect on the cardio-protectiveness though certain studies on the use of mustard oil shows 50% decrease in the chance of ischemic heart diseases. Whereas usage of rice barn oil shows effect on hypolipidemia and further studies on these oils also show results on the cardiovascular health. Despite the positive effects of essential olive oil, it isn't considerably used in India because of the traditional cooking methods, availability and the price tag on olive oil. Essential olive oil not as an indigenous is not commonly available and it is quite expensive so that it is less popular however subsidises provided from the Agricultural ministry on essential olive oil and olive cultivation along with its nutritional facts is developing interest among people in India.

  • Fruits and Vegetables:

Mediterranean diet's main factor is the high consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Indian diet shows low consumption in fruit and vegetables compared to Mediterranean diet despite India being the second most significant producer of fruits & vegetables in the world. The primary reasons noted for low consumption of vegetables & fruits are availability, affordability and lack of awareness. Early start, multi- component interventions and subsidies on growing and storing of fruits & vegetables may offer supportable solutions on promoting intake of fruits & vegetables in India.

  • Legumes:

Another important Mediterranean diet is the consumption of legumes. Legumes reduces the Cardiovascular system disease risk and it is saturated in protein and fibre. Legumes are also found to be rich in vitamins, minerals, omega-3 essential fatty acids and non-starch polysaccharides. Despite the fact that Indian diet contains a legume it is not up to the perfect consumption levels. India has a high production rate of legumes regardless of the intake levels, this is because of the price factor. The task lies in increasing production rate better value, making legumes affordable for everyone in India.

  • Fish:

Fish plays a essential role in Mediterranean diet, due to its long chain omega 3 fatty acids(n-3) it is well known to be very heart healthy. Fish intake ratio in India depends from region to region considerably, whereas it is widely consumed in the Mediterranean. Alternate way to obtain n-3 in India is commonly nuts, flax seeds and mustard oil, but it includes shorter chains of n-3 in comparison to fish.

  • Drinks:

Mediterranean diet consists of mainly wine as drink, whereas in India whiskey and beer are highly consumed instead of wine. The consumption pattern of alcohol also varies between your Mediterranean and India, for instance in India alcohol is consumed before food as compared to the Mediterranean where it is consumed along with food. This pattern and the kind of alcohol consumed has effects on the chance of CVD.

  • Meat:

High CVD risk is associated with red meat intake, people following Mediterranean diet usually consumes less red meat. The United Nation food and Agricultural organization reported a growth in meat consumption in India, this shows there is certainly change in the most common dietary preferences. Religion plays a main part in meat diet in India, Hindus usually avoid beef and Muslims avoid pork among the list of non-vegetarian population in India.

The comparison of Mediterranean and Indian diet is elucidated in table 1


The Mediterranean diet shows it is just a balanced diet altogether, whereas the diet particularly followed in India has all the mandatory nutrients but doesn't meet the required standard to meet a complete nutritional balanced diet. This can be mainly noted due to regional food being more available than others and as well as the fact of affordability of certain food items, pattern of dietary consumption in India also does are likely involved in it. Despite this the constituents of the Mediterranean diet plays separate roles in their relationship with each other and with the items which are consumed alongside with the dietary plan. Therefore, fusing Mediterranean diet with the traditional Indian food processing methods followed in the Indian diet to set-up mixed dishes could affect several preventive and nutritional benefits that Mediterranean diet alone holds, which could also lead to increased risk of CVD substantially. Thus, successful dietary interventions should be implemented mainly for the patterns of diet followed instead of having isolated nutrients along with usual diet, hence aiding to develop an ample, stable and nutritional diet. The Ministry also needs to see to it that there are enough foods offered by affordable rates so that satisfactory portions of food is consumed, thus meeting the ample nutritional standards in the diet.


Keys, A. (1995). Mediterranean diet and public health: personal reflections. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 61(6), 1321S-1323S.

MISRA, R. M. R. (2011). Indian Foods: AAPI's Guide Indian Foods: AAPI's Guide To Nutrition, Health insurance and Diabetes: Chennai: Sunil Sachdev.

Sarkar, P. , Dhumal, C. , Panigrahi, S. S. , & Choudhary, R. (2015). Traditional and ayurvedic foods of Indian origin. Journal of Ethnic Foods, 2(3), 97-109.

Trichopoulou, A. , Martnez-Gonzlez, M. A. , Tong, T. Y. , Forouhi, N. G. , Khandelwal, S. , Prabhakaran, D. , . . . de Lorgeril, M. (2014). Definitions and potential health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet: views from experts across the world. BMC medicine, 12(1), 112.

Visioli, F. , & Galli, C. (2001). The role of antioxidants in the Mediterranean diet. Lipids, 36, S49-S52.

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