With a name like the Mediterranean diet, you would expect it to have exotic foods not often found in your grocery store or local farmer’s market.
But do not let the name fool you. The Mediterranean diet provides you with full servings of heart-healthy foods and drinks that are prominent in countries that are near the Mediterranean Sea. So you know the foods are delicious and flavourful aside from being healthy.
Here is our take on it.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
While many diets focus on more protein, less carbs and limiting fats, the Mediterranean diet turns that model upside down a bit in terms of quantity. More emphasis is placed on eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Red meat is all but nonexistent (preferably one or two times per month) while fish and/or poultry should be eaten at least twice a week.
Another aspect of the Mediterranean diet is limiting dairy or replacing it with healthy fats like olive oil. Every meal should include some sort of healthy fat whether it is seeds, nuts, olives or beans. Whole grains are also acceptable to eat, but should not be loaded up with butter. Instead, dipping it in olive oil is the Mediterranean way to enjoy your bread.
Red wine is a big part of the cultures near the Mediterranean so it is no surprise that drinking red wine, in moderation, is okay on this diet. Finally, salt is substituted for fresh herbs and spices and should be a part of every meal. This gives your food that flavorful taste that people living in the Mediterranean region enjoy so much when preparing their meals.
Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
A lot of research has gone into seeing how effective a Mediterranean diet is in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. What researchers ultimately discovered was that the diet not only reduced the risk of death from either heart disease or cancer, but it also reduced the incidences of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Unlike most other diets, this one puts a great deal of emphasis on eating healthy fats—better known as unsaturated fats. This is one of the reasons why dairy is not highly recommended on the Mediterranean diet since most of it contains high amounts of saturated or trans fats which are not good for your health or your waist line.
Healthy fats like olive oil, omega-3 fatty fish and nuts have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), keep blood pressure under control, prevent your blood from clotting by improving blood vessel health and lower your risk of a heart attack.
Fish such as salmon, sardines and herring, are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids which is why fish is so highly recommended on a Mediterranean diet.
Can you really drink wine?
Research has shown that red wine consumption, in moderation, can reduce your risk of heart disease. Moderation means five ounces or less per day for women of every age and men who are sixty-five years or older.
Younger men can consume up to ten ounces of red wine per day. If you drink more than these amounts, you could be increasing your risk for certain cancers. Of course, for those who have a history of abusing alcohol, it is better to not include red wine as part of their diet.
In a Mediterranean nutshell
The Mediterranean diet is designed to help you improve your heart health by eating the right types of foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, whole grains and fish. Your meals should be made up mostly of plant-based foods. Seeds and nuts are an easy way to get healthy fats—especially on the go. If you eat peanut butter or any type of nut butter, be sure it is the natural kind without any added ingredients. The only ingredient listed should be the nut itself.
Butter is an absolute no-no and if you want to eat dairy, only choose those that are low fat or fat free. Skip the red meat and opt for heart healthy fish instead. And do not forget to spice up your fish (or other foods) with herbs and spices instead of salt.
Many people have found that eating a Mediterranean diet is not difficult and gives them the right protein, carbohydrate and fat ratio that their body needs. You do not (and should not) feel deprived or hungry on this diet which means you will not be bingeing on foods that might undo the diet’s benefits. As an added bonus, you may even lose some weight on the Mediterranean diet.
Whatever your reasons are for trying the Mediterranean diet, you will no doubt reap many health rewards and benefits from it while enjoying delicious and nutritious foods.
Other Diets To Consider
Arguably the diet that is the most popular on a worldwide basis is the 5:2 Diet. This is the principle of fasting or intermittent fasting.
There are many success stories, this diet has real science behind it. The only drawback is that some say is hard to stick at.