The Mediterranean diet is based on a simple concept of consuming the food in the traditional diet of people who live in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. These countries include Greece, Spain, France, and Italy. Research shows that people consuming the traditional diet had a lower risk of several chronic conditions. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, premature death, and strokes. Part of the reason it’s good for health is that it aids in weight loss.
The diet consists of foods to consume.
The Mediterranean diet includes fruit, whole grains, vegetables, heart-healthy fat, and a healthy protein source. Protein sources include poultry, legumes, eggs, dairy, fish and seafood, nuts, seeds, and nut butter. Heart-healthy fats include olives, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, and avocado oil. Even certain herbs and spices, such as basil, garlic, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper are also essential. The exact type of food will vary from country to country, but overall, the diet is high in plant-based foods and lower in animal products. It also includes seafood and fish at least twice a week.
The Mediterranean diet also includes foods to limit or avoid entirely.
Whole grains are allowed, but refined grains or products made with them, such as pasta, white bread, or tortillas, aren’t. While olive oil and avocado oil are beneficial, refined oils such as canola oil, grapeseed oil, soybean oil, and cottonseed oil aren’t. Animal products are more limited, and processed meat is prohibited; just as other highly processed foods are. Those include food with added sugar, fast food, and food containing trans fats.
You can enjoy restaurant food if you choose carefully.
If you eat at a dine-in restaurant, you’ll often be able to find food that is part of the Mediterranean diet. Vegetables or vegetable dishes, whole grain bread, legumes, and fish or seafood are normally found in most restaurants. Ask your server for extra virgin olive oil instead of butter to top whole grain bread. Some restaurants offer garlic olive oil for dipping.
- Water, coffee or tea without cream or sweeteners, and approximately a glass of red wine a day are recommended drinks for the Mediterranean diet. Fruit juice in moderation can be included, but eating the whole fruit is better.
- Sharing a meal with others and socializing are part of traditional Mediterranean cultures. Laughter and good conversation make meals more enjoyable and reduce stress.
- Research suggests combining the Mediterranean diet with the Mediterranean lifestyle provides more health benefits. Besides socializing and reducing stress, it includes regular physical activity.
- The Mediterranean diet boosts heart health, improves brain functioning, slowing cognitive decline. Newer studies may show it may help improve arthritis, protect against cancer, and lowers blood pressure.
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