• 2019.03.19
  • The Mediterranean Diet and Olives
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Juan Manuel Ruíz Liso, Spain’s leading proponent of the Mediterranean diet, so, following on from my last blog, I’d like to discuss again this lifestyle focusing on diet, which people have been taking up in Japan.

It seems that the word “diet” originally comes from the Greek word “diaita”, which means “way of living”. The Mediterranean diet broadly encompasses the food and lifestyle that has supported human life over a long period in the greater Mediterranean region (including the adjacent Egypt and Mesopotamia), the crucible of European civilization symbolized in the Greco-Roman era.

Although the communities surrounding the Mediterranean share this one sea, they have many differences, including their local area, climate and natural features, national character, as well as religion and history, and the greatest common factor or the shared aspect, like a basso continuo if you like, chiefly diet, started attracting more attention in the 50s to the 60s. For example, something that nudged the Mediterranean diet into the spotlight was the excellent results for the Mediterranean region in international comparative surveys of coronary disease and investigations into the problem of obesity due to metabolic disorder.

Dr. Ruíz Liso has summarized the approach in his “Decalogue of the Mediterranean Diet.”
They are:

1. You shall take olive virgin oil every day of your life.
2. Bread and cereals you shall not forget.
3. Fruit shall accompany all your meals.
4. Salad you shall eat daily.
5. Vegetables and legumes you shall combine.
6. Without fish you shall not live.
7. Daily you shall drink milk.
8. Saturated fat consumption you shall not exceed.
9. Every day you shall walk.
10. In company you shall always be.

To summarize these 10 commandments into 2 points: “You shall love the Mediterranean diet as you love yourself.
You shall transmit its benefits to the neighbour.”
“Commandments” present an image of strictness, so it may be better to take them as “recommendations.”

Decalogue of the Mediterranean Diet

To present the Mediterranean diet in simplified form, there is also a pyramid diagram showing the foods to take, and people are aware of this diagram in Japan. Rather than using the pyramid, a form that enshrines the spirits of the dead, however, Dr. Ruíz Liso created a “health temple” for his diet education activities with the temple resting on the foundation of the Mediterranean diet with the intention of it representing a temple where living people pay their respects.

Dr. Ruíz Liso’s temple diagram, which was used for the front page of a diet magazine aimed at children in the province of Soria, where he bases his activities.

The foundation stones are environmental sustainability and leading a healthy lifestyle, the pillars are solidarity, optimism, communication, exercise, siesta, etc., and on top of that he places the numerous foods that constitute a “diet” indispensable to human growth and survival, and he completes the temple by putting virgin olive oil at the very top. Here “diet” doesn’t necessarily mean “food” precisely, rather, I think you can understand it as a word indicating “way of life.”

Foods in the Mediterranean diet (1)

Recently a certain major U.S. company that provides integrated information services ranked 169 countries and regions in the world by level of health. Impressively, Spain ranked number one. This was a jump up from sixth rank in the last ranking in 2017.
To rank the countries and regions, points were added for average longevity, health care system, access to clean water, etc. but points were subtracted for smoking rate, obesity, etc.
The article starts with the question “Did Spain come out on top thanks to gazpacho and paella?”
Yes, it probably was because of the Mediterranean diet.

Foods in the Mediterranean diet (2)

The image of the Mediterranean Sea is a calm sea dotted with islands basking in bright sunshine, where seafood is abundant and there are olives and citrus fruits, which is similar to the Seto Inland Sea, right?
Marinate Akashi octopus in Shodo island virgin olive oil, Hakata island salt, and lemon from the Geiyo islands, and voila, your Octopus Carpaccio, a superb example of Japanese Mediterranean food, is ready.

Come to think of it, a long-established pickle store in Kyoto has made a Mediterranean Sea Olive Pickle, a combination of two main players: olives, which play the lead role in the Mediterranean diet, and fermented foods, which you could say play a prominent role in Washoku (“traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese”). It looks as though we can expect further collaborations between the Mediterranean diet and Washoku.

By the way, March 15 is Olive Day in Japan. The day was established to commemorate the planting of olive seeds by Emperor Hirohito himself on Shodo island, which His Majesty visited on a tour of the area on that day in 1950. Apparently, you can now see the impressive trees those seeds have grown into at Shodoshima Olive Park, which commemorates the place where olive cultivation started.

I received assistance from the following in writing this and the previous blogs.
〇 Fundación Científica Caja Rural de Soria (Soria Credit Union Science Foundation)
Director: Dr. Juan Manuel Ruíz Liso (Medicine)
〇 Teachers and students from the Department of Food Culture, Faculty of Food Culture, Baika Women’s University
I would like to express my gratitude for their assistance.


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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