The Mediterranean Diet – #2 in the Best Eating Plan Series

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 and weight loss…in my opinion anyway.  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, being physically active, enjoying good food that is good for you, 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 low 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.  Alcohol has been shown to have a positive impact on cholesterol levels and therefore heart health.

In addition to these specific foods, the Mediterranean people’s way of taking time to savor and enjoy food is also 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. Evidence published in 2013 showed that this kind of eating pattern is effective at warding off heart attack, stroke, and premature death.

Past research has also shown this way of eating can help lower cholesterol, help with weight loss, improve rheumatoid arthritis, and reduce the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and various types of cancer.  Whew, pretty amazing right?  Why would you not want to start to incorporate all the good foods the Med diet includes right now?!

5 Tips for Incorporating a Mediterranean Style of Eating

  1. Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner.  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.
  2. Eat seafood twice a week.  Especially the heart-healthy omega-3 rich varieties like tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines.  Mussels, oysters, and clams also have health boosting effects on the brain and heart.
  3. 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.
  4. Make most of your grains whole. There are so many options.  100% whole wheat breads, rolls, tortillas, English muffins, pastas, cereals, crackers in place of white processed grains, are easy to incorporate.
  5. Base your snacks on real foods.  Like nuts, seeds, low-fat cheese, or Greek yogurt along with a fruit or veggie. Replacing those protein bars or processed cookies or crackers with real food will help cut down on sugars, saturated and trans (artery-clogging) fats.

Want more easy information and recipes to help you incorporate the Med diet?  I found a great little book called The Oldways 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan.  It has 28 days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus and simple recipes to help you start to incorporate the Mediterranean Diet at every meal.  It can be found on Amazon for just over $8.  

By incorporating simple, real 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 health benefits theMediterranean Diet has to offer.