Oct
24
2009

Did the ancient Romans have a healthy Mediterranean diet?

Mushrooms for lunch! (photo by orsorama - CC-BY)

Mushrooms for lunch! (photo by orsorama - CC-BY)

The Ancient Romans were known for their highly evolved civilization, and for their inventions like the aqueduct. They were also known to love food and eating, and they often threw elaborate banquets to impress their friends with their knowledge of food and wine and to show off their wealth. That wasn't how they ate all the time, however. Even the wealthiest Romans ate simply by today's standards.

The Ancient Romans ate quite moderately in their normal diet, and their diet was very similar to a healthy Mediterranean diet today. The areas around the Mediterranean, including Italy, are some of the healthiest in the modern world, and experts believe it is because of their healthy diet. They use heart-healthy olive oil, eat a lot of grains and wholegrains, and they drink wine, which helps keep the heart healthy too (in moderation, of course).

The Ancient Romans ate a very healthy diet for their time. For breakfast they would have a wheat pancake or a slice of bread, along with some dates and honey. Wealthier Romans might add fruit and some meat to their morning meal. For lunch they would usually have a light meal made up of bread, cheese and sometimes (but not always) some kind of meat. They would top the bread with olives and vegetables, and add a salad too. For dinner, they would often have vegetables, flavored with herbs and spices along with a wheat meal that was very much like our porridge of today.

Of course, everyone hears about the Roman banquets that lasted for hours where enormous amounts of food were consumed, but they were the exception. During these banquets more elaborate meals were served, for example unusual meats like peacock or ostrich together with elaborate sauces. But the Romans didn't eat like this all the time. Beef was not even popular in Rome, so when meat was consumed it was often fish or poultry, another key to a healthy diet both then and now.

Romans also drank wine, but they diluted it with water because it was very strong. Their eating habits were actually quite healthy and make sense even today. They ate more grains, less meat, more fish, and less processed food, and enjoyed a wide variety of vegetables and salads. Following their diet today could be a way for many people to eat lighter and healthier, and lose weight, too.

About the Author

This Quezi article is a guest post submitted by Valery Fortie of mediterraneanbook.com, a blog founded in 2004 and dedicated to preserving the Italian healthy eating traditions.

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