Diet and Dietetics in al-Andalus

Br J Nutr. 2006 Aug;96 Suppl 1:S100-4. doi: 10.1079/bjn20061710.


Al-Andalus society (711-1492) based its idea of health on the wisdom of Classical Greece, the Hippocratic-Galenic theories, as well as the Persian and Hindu cultures. The twelfth century in al-Andalus is considered to be the most prolific period for works of a scientific and technical nature. At the time, the main treatises on dietetics were written and this science reached its widest expression with such leading figures as Ibn Wāfīd, Avenzoar, Averroes and Maimonides, whose works revealed the first scientific knowledge on the nutritional processes of the human body. Diet was regarded as being essential for health and the prevention of disease. Dietary guidelines were written for different age groups, different body types and different seasons of the year. The amount of food to be ingested, the number of meals recommended and the order in which the food should be consumed were all issues that were discussed. A variety of foods were thought to have medicinal properties, some of which are known today. The diet in al-Andalus was varied and very probably made a substantial contribution to the origin of the present-day Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, wholemeal cereals, fruit and vegetables, fish, lamb, poultry, nuts and spices. We also find that many of the terms in current use in diet and agriculture are a living testimony to the Arabic influence, as are many of the dishes of our varied Mediterranean gastronomy.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diet / history*
  • Dietetics / history*
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Spain