You probably must have heard of the Mediterranean diet, but do you actually know the science behind it?
Full of diverse plant-based foods, healthy fats, whole grains, the Mediterranean diet is widely embraced by top medical professionals and experts.
This diet is deeply rooted in the coastal cuisines of Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, France, and northern Africa. In January 2019, US News and World Report named it the “best diet overall” for the second year running.
As research uncovers its many health benefits, doctors and medical professionals in United States are increasingly advocating a Mediterranean diet plan.
According to a study by the University of Barcelona, the connection between the Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular health was strikingly clear.
Over 7,000 Spanish participants adopted a Mediterranean-style diet rich in healthy fats for nearly five years. Many of them were overweight, smokers or diabetic. After a comprehensive follow-up, researchers observed a sharp improvement in participants’ health.
The results showed an absolute risk reduction of a thirty percent decrease of cardiovascular disease among these high-risk individuals.
Apart from heart diseases, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers, depression, and in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The traditional plate of Mediterranean diet is nutritionally balanced, diverse, and full of color. It should never feel restrictive. Instead, it’s a refined way of eating defined by plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, healthy grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Mediterranean diet food list includes;
- an abundance of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, which are minimally processed, seasonally fresh, and locally grown
- olive oil is used as the principal source of fat
- cheese and yogurt should be consumed daily in low to moderate amounts
- fish and poultry should be consumed in low to moderate amounts few times a week
- red meat should be consumed infrequently and in small amounts
- fresh fruit for dessert are taken containing added sugars or honey eaten only few times each week
Also read: Eating habits that can destroy your health
What are the benefits of Mediterranean diet?
In order to bring the Mediterranean diet to your plate, here are some small changes you can make. Pick one change every week and embrace it gradually. Start with the ones you think will be the easiest.
- Switch from whatever fats that you use to extra virgin olive oil. You can start by using olive oil in cooking, and then try some new salad dressings with olive oil as the base. Olive oil can also be used in place of butter on your crusty bread.
- Have nuts and olives. Consume a handful of raw nuts every day as a healthy replacement for processed junk and snacks.
- Add whole-grain bread and other whole grains to the meal. Choose dense, chewy, country-style loaves without added sugar or butter. Experiment it with bulgur, barley, farrow, couscous, and whole-grain pasta.
- Before or after, salad is a must. Select crisp, dark greens and whichever vegetables are in season.
- Add more different kind of vegetables to the menu. Include an extra serving of vegetables to both lunch and dinner, aiming for three to four servings a day. Try a different vegetable every week.
- Eat at least three servings a legumes a week. Legumes are a rich source of fiber, protein and B vitamins and include lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas.
- Eat less meat. Choose poultry in moderate three to four ounce portions. Save red meat for consumption on occasions or use meat as a condiment, along with lots of vegetables, as in stews, stir-fries, and soups. Eat more fish, at least two to three servings a week. Both canned or fresh fish are fine.
- Replace wine as compared to other alcoholic beverages. Substitute beer or liquors with wine — no more than two, five ounce glasses per day for men, and one glass per day for women.
- Cut out sodas and sweet beverages. Have water instead of juices, sodas and sugary beverages.
- Eat less high in fat and high in sugar desserts. Poached and fresh fruits are the best. You should aim for three servings of fresh fruit a day. Have cakes and pastries on special occasions.
- Seek out for the best quality food available. Farmer’s markets are an excellent source of locally grown, seasonal foods that are better than processed, canned and preserved or stale food.
Lastly, try to have dinner as a family as often as possible.
Food as a communal and shared experience is a big part of the Mediterranean approach. The Mediterranean diet is lifestyle. Enjoy the social component of this diet by sharing meals with family and friends as often as possible, whether it’s a weekend mean or a special occasion.
Slow down and savor each bite. Don’t be afraid to have a glass of wine, but keep it moderate. Even though wine packs antioxidants, you should also drink plenty of water, as staying hydrated keeps your body in function.
The last bit of the equation is to make physical activity a part of your daily routine, let it be biking to work or simply taking a walk during your lunch break to enjoy the fresh air, the key is to keep yourself active.