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Bringing the Mediterranean (diet) home

An upcoming UA nutritional conference will highlight benefits of a Mediterranean lifestyle and diet rich in olive oil, fresh vegetables, and whole foods.

December 14, 2014

The basis of a healthy Mediterranean diet include olive oils, fruits and veggies, a moderate consumption of meat and fish.

The basis of a healthy Mediterranean diet include olive oils, fruits and veggies, and a moderate consumption of meat and fish, as well as whole grains.

Believe it or not, the Mediterranean may not be that far away — well, the benefits of the dieting habits may not be anyway.

In a public workshop event, the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Department of Nutritional Sciences will present the medical and lifestyle benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and how you can benefit from it locally.

The weekend workshop will take place from January 28 – 30; although it is targeted primarily at health care professionals, students, and researchers, the public is welcome to attend. A separate preview lecture, “Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet: A Food, Wine, and Healthy Living Event,” will give attendees samplings of the foods and local cuisine that can be found in Tucson.

“We’re really bringing our partners into that and showing people, here’s what you can do, look how easy it is that we’re [demonstrating] all within this one hour time span,” said Melanie Hingles, an assistant professor at the UA and the conference co-chair. “People can try it and eat it, and then we’ll have all the recipes and resources so people can find that stuff on their own.”

The semi-arid ecosystem of southern Arizona is similar to the coastal areas of the Italian, says Donato Romagnolo, a UA nutrition science professor. Figs and olives grow well in this type of climate, and Romagnolo says many of the foods you would find in Italy, you can find in Tucson.

He also says the benefits of the diet are greater than the food consumption alone. The Mediterranean diet is all about lifestyle.

“The Mediterranean diet is a concept. We’re obviously not there physically, but it is something more dietary,” Romagnolo said. “There’s more in the lifestyle than just food; [it’s] physical activity, culture, communality.”

The key is to eat whole and unprocessed foods, olive oils, moderate amounts of meat, and more fruits and vegetables. Science has also shown that a glass of wine with a meal is healthy – although alcohol can be a significant source of calories, Romagnolo says it is the antioxidants that benefit the body.

Speakers from around the world will be in attendance, including researchers and professors from Spain, France, and across the United States.

“I think people who are looking for these kinds of activities … they’ll receive that message that food is fun,” Romagnolo said.

Romagnolo also offers a summer program for university students to study the benefits of a Mediterranean diet in a hands-on experience. Much of the diet research he has done has been a result of his time in Italy.

To register for the Wednesday night event visit:

To register for the entire workshop visit:



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