Mediterranean Diet: recommended also for astronauts
The health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are recognized around the world. It is the recommended diet even for astronauts. Astronauts are exposed to high levels of stress, thus they must necessarily have a perfect health, must not suffer from any disease and should have a particularly strong heart.
Samanta Cristoforetti, known also as “Astro Samanta”, declares to be an “omnivorous” and she is also a gourmand. She even has her own chef, a young Italian man called Stefano Polato, head of the Space Food Lab, who studies nutrition for astronauts.
This means no more pills in orbit, but real meals divided in categories: vegetables and soups, fruits and dried fruits, breakfast, side dishes, meat and fish.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is trying to convert the astronauts to the vegan diet.
Astro Samanta replied: “I am not aware of this PETA-call, but certainly the first source of fresh food produced in space will be of vegetal origin, we all agree. This does not mean that we should necessarily avoid eating meat. We can initially bring it from Earth but it is also clear that all the trials (many Italian ones) targeting the ability to produce food in space have focused on plants. In this sense it is certainly true.”
But will the production of vegetable food in space be possible? Here is what the experts think:
“Although not impossible, a vegan diet could pose some problems from a nutritional point of view. To date, the best way to combat the loss of bone mass is the combination of an adequate intake of calcium, vitamin D, protein and exercises on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED)
With a vegan diet it is very difficult to ensure that astronauts take a proper supply of calcium, which is between 1000 mg and 2000 mg; this is because it would be required to eat large quantities of fruit and vegetables to be able to get the recommended amount of calcium only from them, but astronauts immediately experience a decrease in appetite.
In addition to calcium, other problems arise for vitamins D, B12 and K2 and for the intake of proteins that could not be enough to supply all the necessary amino acids. Finally, a special note regarding iron: despite a vegan diet does not contain it in amounts comparable to a traditional varied diet, the problem is less evident on the ISS than on Earth. In microgravity conditions, the body needs much less iron. ”
What about the astronaut Luca Parmitano? He was not far behind. His menu was in fact prepared by the famous Michelin-starred chef David Scabin, with lasagne, eggplant parmigiana, risotto with pesto, caponata and tiramisu.
Therefore, at the moment the Mediterranean Diet remains the healthier and also tastier diet. Even on orbit.
Susanna Bramante is an agronomist and scientific writer, author and co-author of 11 scientific publications and numerous articles on human nutrition and its impact on health and environment. In 2010 she received the title of Doctor Europaeus and PhD in Animal Production, Health and Food Hygiene in countries with a Mediterranean climate.