In efforts to understand the Mediterranean diet, it is necessary to first learn about the many countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The diet is closely tied geographically to areas of olive oil cultivation in the Mediterranean Basin. It can be defined by diets of the early 1960s in Greece, southern Italy and other Mediterranean regions in which olive oil was the principal source of dietary fat. The olive remains the most typical Mediterranean tree because it has adapted to the regional climate of long, very hot, dry summers and mild, damp winters.
The lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea contain some of the oldest cultures on Earth. Greece, as well as other countries of Europe, North Africa, and some Middle Eastern nations, played a central role in the expansion of empires and cross-cultural exchanges over the centuries. Over 2,000 years ago trade by means of sea routes allowed Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Carthaginian, Arab, and Oriental products and traditions to intermix, resulting in mutual enrichment and an evolution of what is now incorporated into the Mediterranean diet. However, many different diets exist throughout the Mediterranean region, and there is no such thing as just one Mediterranean diet. Variations of this diet have traditionally existed in the North African countries of Morocco and Tunisia, parts of Turkey, and other Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Syria.
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