For those of you who have missed a blog or two, this is #2 in a series of five of the best diets/eating plans for better overall health. In this series I will review some of my favorite eating plans that are well supported by scientific evidence to improve health. I will outline what each diet is, what foods are included, the health benefits, and simple ways to incorporate the diet into your life.
Up this week, a review of The Mediterranean Diet.
What is it?
The Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle approach to eating based on the traditional foods and drinks and way of life of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean way of eating is based on cooking and eating simple, real, minimally-processed foods (most of the time), being physically active, and including wine in moderation, if you so choose.
What foods are included?
The Med plan includes plenty of beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and seafood, and poultry, eggs, and yogurt. It basically is a plant-based diet. It is low in processed and red meats and lower in sweets. The plan overall is low in saturated fats, but high in monounsaturated fats – largely coming from olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
People tend to pick up very quickly on the fact that wine is also a component of the Med diet, but moderation is key. Moderation being 1 (5 ounce) glass a day for women, 2 glasses a day for men.
In addition to these specific foods, the Mediterranean people’s lifestyle and approach to life are also important factors in their reduced levels of chronic disease. Taking time to savor and enjoy food is an important part of their culture. Mimic the people of the Mediterranean by enjoying food often with family and friends instead of gobbling it down in the car on the way somewhere or in front of the television. When you slow down a little you can become more conscious of what and how much you are eating and your body’s feelings of hunger and fullness.
What are the health benefits?
A plethora of health benefits have been well documented and reported among people following a Mediterranean type diet that include:
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Decreased cholesterol
- Possible reduced risk of strokes in women
- Improved brain and gut health
- Better sleep
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased lifespan
Whew, pretty amazing right? Why would you not want to start to incorporate all the good foods the Med diet includes right now?!
6 tips for incorporating the Med style of eating
- Add a fruit or vegetable to your meals. Eat a salad, add veggies to replace the meat on a pizza, roast a mix of vegetables, or mix in an extra veggie with your one pot meal. Throw some berries or sliced banana into your cereal, have a piece of fruit with lunch or as a snack.
- Eat seafood twice a week. Especially the heart-healthy omega-3 rich varieties like tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Mussels, oysters, and clams also have health boosting effects on the brain and heart.
- Use extra virgin olive oil for cooking instead of butter. Olive oil is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. As mentioned above, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados are also rich in good fats.
- Include more whole grains. There are so many options. 100% whole wheat breads, rolls, tortillas, English muffins, pastas, cereals, crackers are easy to incorporate.
- Eat at least three servings a week of legumes. Options include lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas. You can put them in soups or add them on top of a salad.
- Eat less meat. Choose lean poultry or seafood most often. Save red meat for occasional consumption or use meat as a condiment, accompanied by lots of vegetables, as in stews, stir-fries, and soups. Eat more fish, aiming for two to three servings a week. Both canned and fresh fish are good options.
By incorporating simple foods like olive oil, whole grains, beans, peas, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, seafood, and yogurt and slowing down and enjoying your food you too can enjoy the many anti-inflammatory and health benefits the Mediterranean Diet has to offer.