Arizona Agriculture Grows the Mediterranean Diet in the Desert

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Communication Director: Last Saturday while on Rosie on the House (check out the 8:00am hour, scroll down a bit on the page) I discussed the healthy Mediterranean Diet and how Arizona agriculture can grow it year around.

Why is this important? Many nutritionists and researchers studying the diet consider it one of the healthiest diets around. People living in the sea region around the southern area of Europe and the northernmost tip of Africa and the Middle East, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy, tend to live longer. Plus, you may have heard of the “Blue Zone,” again that region of the world conducive to a model Mediterranean diet. This “Blue Zone” work grew out of demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michael Poulain, who identified Sardinia, Italy’s Nuoro province as the region with the highest concentration of male centenarians. As the two men zeroed in on the cluster of villages with the highest longevity, they drew concentric blue circles on the map and began referring to the area inside the circle as the Blue Zone.

On the left is the typical Med Diet pyramid, on the right is Arizona agriculture's list of what is grown in our state that corresponds to the healthy Mediterranean diet. 

And while people living in the Blue Zone showing this great longevity was not simply a diet profile but a lifestyle (focus on family, less smoking, constant moderate physical activity and social engagement), what they eat is a big part of it.

And, if what represents the Mediterranean diet can be grown in Arizona, then it’s time to celebrate. Let’s just highlight a few points of Arizona’s amazing agriculture industry and pinpoint every area of the diet we grow (note the graphic in this article).

  • Arizona Farming and Ranching contributes to every area of a traditional Mediterranean diet: whole grains, fruits and veggies, olive oil and Cottonseed oil, dairy, fish, poultry, eggs, wine and red meat.
  • One of my favorite segments of the diet is the wine … we have award winning Arizona-grown wines!
  • This is a story of our diverse agriculture in this desert state
  • The key element? Just add water and it will grow.
  • Our 300+plus days of sunshine are a big factor too.
  • As a result of our weather and modern-conservation water practices, Arizona is planting or harvesting somewhere in this state 12 months out of the year.
  • Arizona is a leading state in the production of various types of citrus and lettuces, and other veggies that are key to the “Med” diet.
  • Our state also has an aquaculture industry that supports a sizable portion of tilapia, fish being another key area in the “Med” diet.
  • Dairy, another “Med” diet food group, is the second-largest agriculture commodity in the state.
  • Don’t forget red meat, at the top of the “Med” Diet pyramid. We raise beef, pork, lamb and goats for meat in Arizona.

We’re so good at what we do, the University of Arizona’s Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Shane Burgess calls Arizona, “The Nutrition State.” We may not be near the sandy beaches but  with Arizona’s sun and water we’re creating our own oasis in the desert and feasting on the “Med” Diet.

Join our Family!