The Mediterranean Diet: The World’s Healthiest Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet: The World’s Healthiest Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is more than a diet. It is a lifelong living style.
You have to adopt it, as a religion.
Decades ago, it was the natural way of life for many people around the Mediterranean Basin, especially in Spain, Italy and Greece.
High activity, Mediterranean nutrition, anti stress attitudes and not much money shaped a culture. These circumstances now have changed in the Mediterranean countries, but many people are still keeping or returning to what is considered to be the healthiest diet in the world.
The Mediterranean Diet is the best way to live many years with a high quality of life.
It is also the best way to keep your body in shape, your skin clean and beautiful and your internal organs working properly.
It the best diet to lead you to a proportional weight and doesn’t endanger your health with urgent and unbalanced malnutrition.
The Mediterranean Diet is free, without any supplements or packs. The only money you are going to spend is your own investment in proper and fresh food, fruits and vegetables.
Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease.
In fact, a recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
The Mediterranean Diet – The Basics:
1. High consumption of virgin olive oil.
2. High intake of vegetables and fruits and legumes.
3. Use of non refined carbohydrates (portions to be adjusted to physical activity).
4. Consumption of fish, specially oily (or “bluish” ones) three or four times a week
5. Consumption of milk and derivates, cheese and yogurt (the original cheese was fresh goat cheese). Keep an eye on the saturated fats of the dairy products. Do not consume too much!
6. Three or four eggs per week.
7. Moderate consumption of meat and saturated fats (natural, not processed meats like salami and ham).
8. One or two small glasses of wine a day, preferably red and at the main meals.
9. Nuts as snacks.
10. Daily moderate exercise.
The focus of the Mediterranean diet isn’t on limiting total fat consumption, but rather to make wise choices about the types of fat you eat.
The Mediterranean diet discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats), both of which contribute to heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet features olive oil as the primary source of fat. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat — a type of fat that can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats.
“Extra-virgin” and “virgin” olive oils — the least processed forms — also contain the highest levels of the protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant effects.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, such as canola oil and some nuts, contain the beneficial linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid).
Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides, decrease blood clotting, are associated with decreased sudden heart attack, improve the health of your blood vessels, and help moderate blood pressure.
Fatty fish — such as mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon — are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fish is eaten on a regular basis in the Mediterranean diet.
The traditional diet among some Mediterranean countries includes fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice. For example, residents of Greece eat very little red meat and average nine servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
This eating pattern has been associated with a lower level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation — a change in LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) that makes it more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.
Grains in the Mediterranean region typically contain very few unhealthy trans fats, and bread is an important part of the diet there. Substitute the new whole-wheat pastas for the traditional refined flours.
If you are suffering from any kind of inflammatory condition, reduce your grain intake and substitute wheat based breads for other grains like rye, spelt, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, barley or millet.
More information on reducing grains to reduce inflammation can be found by clicking here.
Throughout the Mediterranean region, bread is eaten without butter or margarines, which contain saturated fat or trans fats.
When cooking vegetables, avoid frying, and instead try grilling or roasting. Both of these methods caramelise the vegetables, and bring out their natural flavours.
Wine…to your health, Salute!
The health effects of alcohol have been debated for many years, and health professionals are reluctant to encourage alcohol consumption because of the health consequences of excessive drinking.
However, light intake of alcohol is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
Red wine has an aspirin-like effect, reducing the blood’s ability to clot, and also contains antioxidants. The Mediterranean diet typically includes some red wine, but this should be consumed only in moderation.
This means no more than one glass of wine daily for women (or men over age 65), and no more than two glasses of wine daily for men under age 65.
Any more than this increases the risk of health problems, including increased risk of certain types of cancer.
If you are unable to limit your alcohol intake to the amounts defined above, you have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse, or you have liver disease, refrain from drinking wine or any other alcohol.
Keep in mind that red wine may also trigger migraines in some people.
Putting it all together
The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and healthy way to eat. Many people who switch to this style of eating say they’ll never eat any other way.
Here are some specific steps to get you started:
Eat your veggies and fruits — and switch to whole grains. An abundance and variety of plant foods should make up the majority of your meals. They should be minimally processed, and try to purchase them when they’re in season.
Strive for seven to 10 servings a day of veggies and fruits. Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal, and begin to eat more whole-grain rice and pasta products. Keep baby carrots, apples and bananas on hand for quick, satisfying snacks. Fruit salads are a wonderful way to eat a variety of healthy fruit.
Go nuts. Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter, rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added. Try tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for bread.
Pass on the butter. Try olive oil as a healthy replacement for butter or margarine. Use it in cooking. After cooking pasta, add a touch of olive oil, some garlic and green onions for flavouring. Dip bread in flavoured olive oil or lightly spread it on whole-grain bread for a tasty alternative to butter. Try tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for bread too.
Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and are also rich in health-promoting substances. Season your meals with herbs and spices rather than salt.
Go Fish. Eat fish three to four times a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices. Grilled fish tastes good and requires little cleanup. Avoid fried fish, unless it’s sautéed in a small amount of canola oil.
Limit Red Meat. Consume red meat once a week. When eaten, make sure it’s lean and keep portions small (about the size of your palm). Also avoid sausage, bacon and other high-fat meats.
Choose low-fat dairy. Limit higher fat dairy products such as whole or 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.
Raise a glass to healthy eating. Have a glass of wine at dinner. If you don’t drink alcohol, you don’t need to start.
It is not surprising to learn that people following the Mediterranean diet have a lower incidence of heart disease and cancer. Actually, the Mediterranean diet is not really a set diet.
It is simply a healthy eating pattern – a pattern close to the dietary guidelines recommended by the Australian Heart Foundation.
This is important in overall wellbeing health both mental and physical.
Once you experience the delicious and healthy choices the Mediterranean diet has to offer, it just might become your favourite way of eating.