Most helpful critical review
163 of 193 people found the following review helpful
Good general-health book with a few annoyances. Biased in several ways.
on February 5, 2013
I've been eating in a Mediterranean-type way for years, and it is truly one of the healthiest and best-studied ways of eating in the world. I've enjoyed many health benefits from this diet, and I'll never return to the SAD diet. Therefore, I'm not giving this book only three stars because it's a bad book. It's a decent book on healthful eating in general. Yet, I had a few problems that simply annoyed me too much for me to even consider a four-star rating.
1. The author bases most of his claims of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet on studies done in Crete. This is fine for the most part, as the diets of Sicily and Crete are similar (though Greece in general has a lot of healthful influence from the Near East missing from the Italian diet). However, when the two diets differ (such as in the amount of fish/meat eaten), he sides with Sicily for no good reason, it seems, other than cultural bias. The traditional Cretan diet used meat rarely and almost only as as a seasoning or during holidays. Fish was eaten a couple times per week. This author wants you to eat fish several times per week, which brings up the danger of mercury poisoning. It doesn't seem very scientific to use a study done in one area and then change it to fit your own personal ethnic history. There is nothing intrinsically superior about the Sicilian diet nor has any study been done to show that it is more healthful than the traditional Cretan diet.
2. This brings me to another point. The author seems dismissive of vegetarians, even claiming that he can offer no help to them despite the fact that the traditional Cretan and Greek diet (upon which most of the Mediterranean-diet studies are actually based) was widely, though not completely, vegetarian. As I said, fish was only eaten a couple times per week and meat was very rare. His diet is very meat-centric for a diet that is supposed to be based on lentils, vegetable, fruit, and whole grains. Mediterranean peoples eat an abundance of healthful, delicious legume-based dishes ... so it's rather easy to follow this diet and be vegetarian. Again, there seems to be some sort of bias here. Other Mediterranean-diet books seem to have no problem with showing how easy it is to eat Mediterranean regardless of how much meat you consume.
3. Perhaps the most annoying thing about the book is his, decidedly non-Mediterranean, two-week weight-loss diet. It's a high-protein, near low-carb, diet that has you avoid many of the healthful foods upon which the Mediterranean diet is based. This makes the book's title seem like a marketing ploy and the good doctor seem as if he's jumping on a bandwagon because of his ethnicity. I'd suggest skipping over the two-week diet, as it's not much different from any other high-protein diet that's popular today. You may not get enough fiber, and you'll be missing out on tons of nutrients found in fruits and nuts that aren't even present in large quantities in vegetables. Changing to the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle (which includes plenty of movement), is enough to kick start weight loss, and you'll be healthier for it in the long run.
4. The recipes are rather simple (which can be good) but also boring and very similar to one another. The true Mediterranean diet does not include meat or fish at every single meal, and if you do so you are not truly eating in a traditional Mediterranean-type way. Moreover, there are so many wonderful legume-based dishes that are wide-spread through that region of the world that you'll simply be missing out on if you just follow his recipe plans. I'd suggest buying "Vefa's Kitchen," which is, in my opinion, the absolutely best Greek cookbook translated into English out there. Maybe use the good doctor's recipes as a jumping off point and then expand from there. There are many great Mediterranean cookbooks out there, the one I suggested is simply the one I use the most (I have many).
Anyway, I'm only writing this review based on my own experience with the Mediterranean diet, which has been extremely positive. This diet does not, intrinsically, dismiss vegetarians or meat eaters. The ethnic diet is varied, for sure, but the studies done on the diet were very specific and could have different results even from one part of the Mediterranean to another. Still, it's a good book for those beginning their journey into Mediterranean-style eating.