Spain Lives Longest in Europe: Spanish Style Mediterranean Diet Explored

Spanish Mediterranean diet provides longest life expectancy in Europe

By now everyone has heard the Mediterranean diet is found to be the healthiest but it is Spain’s Mediterranean version that promotes longest life expectancy. The most recent study published in 2013 by The Lancet, not only placed the Spaniards as the longest living in Europe but the country also beat Australia, Canada, Norway and the U.S.

In order to calculate life expectancy, researches are charged with examining death certificates. Age, race and gender are incorporated with other data to find national population’s life expectancy. Lifestyle and social systems also play a beneficial role. The World Health Organization ranked Spain number seven for the healthcare system in place. While the actual infrastructure is important, how people arrive to the hospital should also be considered. Spanish people are arriving to the hospital healthier as a result of the Mediterranean diet.

The vast Mediterranean Sea is home to many countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Larger similarities in food exist between countries closer to each other. The Spanish diet is more similar to the Moroccan while the Greek diet is similar to the Turkish. Comparing the Mediterranean diet in Egypt to food consumed in Spain would produce an abundance of differences. However, there are common factors such as higher intake of fish and olive oil.

Spanish Mediterranean diet provides longest life expectancy in Europe

Spaniards are the foodies of Europe. They spend more per head than any other nation, which is a shocking statistic when considering how inexpensive food is in comparison. Also, their relationship with food is more open. Spaniards do not obsess over calorie intake and low fat alternatives. The obesity epidemic does not exist in Spain either. This could be attributed to the mass market of Western food that has not yet penetrated Spain. While it is possible to find a burger in any city, the majority of the food in Spain remains rigidly traditional. Furthermore, chefs in the north of Spain are renowned for their cuisine. San Sebastian has more Michelin stars per square meter than any other city in the world.

The Spanish Mediterranean diet consists of fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, olive oil, seafood, nuts and wine, which are Spain’s traditional agricultural products.

Spanish Mediterranean diet provides longest life expectancy in Europe

Across the country, there are different regional varieties consumed. The north experiences heavy winters and the meals tend to be heartier with steaming broths and rich stews. The southern diet is typically lighter since the weather is warmer. For this reason, the cuisine of southern Andalucía will be explored.



Sweet and savory foods are consumed for breakfast. Churros are the sweetest and most popular option.

Spanish Mediterranean diet provides longest life expectancy in Europe

The fried dough is rolled in sugar and served with a warm mug of hot chocolate. This is more common if you grab breakfast from a local cafe, a normal practice of Spaniards even on weekdays. Toasted bread topped with olive oil, garlic, Serrano ham or fresh tomatoes are among the savory options available.


The Spanish Mediterranean lunch is the most important meal and the longest affair. Despite an influx of foreign businesses and their practices, this still remains indigenous and unchanged.

Typically, Spaniards enjoy a three-course meal consisting of soup, tortilla, meat, rice, vegetables and then fruit for desert. Wine and water are enjoyed during the meal with coffee served at the end.

The soup offered the majority of the year is Gazpacho. It is a cold, tomato based soup blended with other vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, cucumbers, garlic and olive oil. Spaniards drink it in a glass or eat it from a bowl.

Spanish Mediterranean diet provides longest life expectancy in Europe

Paella is the most popular for lunch and considered so filling by Spaniards that they customarily do not eat it for dinner. Only tourists are found consuming paella in the evenings. There are different variations of paella but the base remains the same consistency of white rice, green vegetables, peppers, beans and seasoning. The variants are then created with the inclusion of either meat from land such as rabbit, chicken or duck or the seafood option including calamari, mussels, fish and shrimp.

Spanish Mediterranean diet provides longest life expectancy in Europe


Spaniards eat late, very late, where dinner begins at 10pm and can last until midnight even on weekdays. It is not uncommon to see an entire family in a restaurant with their kids very late in the evening.

The Spanish Mediterranean dinner is lighter than the long and heavy lunch. Quite often it is just tapas, or Spanish appetizers. Tapas are served hot and cold. It is usual for Spaniards to order various types of tapas and consider the combination a full meal. Tapas typically accompany beer or wine and encourage conversation because nobody is focused on sitting down and eating an entire meal. Often times, people enjoy tapas and drinks from more than one restaurant in the same evening.

Spanish Mediterranean diet provides longest life expectancy in Europe

At home, the Spanish dinner diet is simpler and smaller. Cuisine could include fresh seafood, chicken or lamb combined with a vegetable and rice or potatoes.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development also ranked European countries and found Spain below average for household income, employment, education, literacy, math and science, air pollution and water quality. By contrast, they ranked above average in life expectancy and good health despite smoking more than average. The Spanish style Mediterranean diet is serving the population well and allowing them to live the longest in Europe as well as longer than most parts of the world.

By Cayce Manesiotis

OECD Better Life Index

Daily Mail

The Guardian


7 Responses to "Spain Lives Longest in Europe: Spanish Style Mediterranean Diet Explored"

  1. Blue   August 20, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Also, there are other European countries with longer life expectancy (although not by much). My guess is that socialized healthcare plays a big part in life expectancy, even more than the belief that one’s diet fits a certain mold.

  2. Nico   August 19, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I can only second what mentioned Blue… living here for a few years now, and I still deem the french and the italian cuisine (talking about Europe) way better. I actually would think that french fries, meat balls, every variation of pig and deep fried fish are the most common dishes 😛

    if you fancy grilled fish with a bit of lemon, rice and a green salad, that means usually, that you have to go to a non spanish restaurant…

    Maybe the mix makes it, the terraces, having a beer/wine, the olive oil (where some drown their food in it…), not being obsessed with calories, that people live longer… but I would not only attribute that to the food….

    apart from that, am lovin it here, but the food, naw, not the best in Europe imho 🙂

  3. Blue   January 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    After living in Madrid and now Valencia, I see a LOT of meat and shellfish. And I don’t mean to be antagonistic, I really am curious, but how are Spanish the foodies? If that’s so, I’d think that there would be more Spanish restaurants, over French, Italian, and Greek, all over the world (which there aren’t). Granted, I haven’t been to many nice restaurants here (I really can’t afford it), but everywhere I go, the menu seems to have the same things – meat, fried potatoes, other fried things, and more meat. I’ve been to other countries that had WAY more delicious, vegetarian options. Also, I like grilled fish but that doesn’t seem to be as common as shellfish, smoked salmon, and cured pork in restaurants either.

  4. ross manesiotis   November 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    She’s spent years in Spain Alan.

    • Alan   November 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      I read the article to a few Spanish colleagues here in Madrid and they all thought it was slightly construed, dated and a little stereotypical. Sorry!

  5. Alan   November 12, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    What a stereotypical load of old rubbish. Obesity is just as current as in other countries. Has she even been to Spain? If so, I think for a long weekend!

  6. Anne Sewell   November 12, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Good to hear (I live in Spain) 🙂


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