How To Eat a Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet – you’ve likely heard of it but may not know why it’s popular, how it would benefit you or what to do to get started. The good news is that it’s not a fad diet – one that you try for a while and drop after reaching your goal (weight loss, cholesterol level reduction, etc.). The Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle plan for eating and achieving wellness. Best of all, you can incorporate parts of it into your meals and still get some great benefits for your overall health and specific health conditions.
So let’s learn more about this lifestyle approach to eating.
The Diet Defined
The Mediterranean diet gets its name from the traditional cooking and eating style of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – Greece, Turkey, Israel and Spain… to name just a few. The diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating with fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. Specifically, the tenants of Mediterranean diet include:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, including legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with extra-virgin olive oil
- Flavoring foods with herbs and spices over salt
- Only eating red meat a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, processed foods, refined grains and refined oils
As well, a part of this diet/lifestyle of eating includes enjoying meals with family and friends. Eating is pleasurable and it’s important to not eat in a hurry and grab things quickly. The emphasis on sharing meals helps us to focus on taking time to enjoy the food we eat. The diet also advocates drinking red wine in moderation and getting plenty of exercise. Many of the people in the countries from where this diet hails spend a lot of time walking each day rather than driving in a car.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
As with most diets that focus on plant-based foods and steer clear of processed foods and unhealthy fats, you will likely lose weight. For those of us looking to trim back our weight, this eating lifestyle will help you do it while still enjoying many delicious foods.
Studies have shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease – so anyone with a preexisting heart condition or the genetics to develop a heart condition should consider this diet. As well, it’s been shown to help reduce the level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – what we often refer to as “bad” cholesterol – that can build up and eventually cause blocked arteries.
The Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, incidence of cancer and occurrence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. It may even reduce breast cancer in women, due to the emphasis on extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts. The bottom line is that most scientific organizations encourage this eating lifestyle as a preventive for many major diseases and to improve overall health and wellness.
There’s just not much to not love about it.