The Mediterranean diet is not a diet per se (at least not in the traditional way of understanding of the word “diet”) but more of a way of living and eating healthy. It is a way of eating traditionally practiced by people and communities living around the Mediterranean Sea. So you might be wondering why should you eat like Italians or Greeks when you’re not? While most of us get our dietary needs in processed foods, processed meats, sugary foods and beverages, a Mediterranean diet consist highly of vegetables, legumes (beans), olive oil, fruits, fish, whole grains, healthy protein plus a little red wine. Their meal plan comprises of less than 25-30% fats and includes being physically active.
Many health professionals recommend the Mediterranean diet because it has been linked to a whole gamut of benefits including a reduced risk of cardiovascular ailments and even the retention of cognitive abilities to help stave off dementia. Ancel Keys, a Minnesota physiologist, also proved that people from the Mediterranean region statistically lived longer than the other region he studied because Mediterraneans have low saturated fat intake because they get their fat from olives and fish.
So what does this elusive Mediterranean diet constitute?
At the present time, due to its wide definition and being widely practiced in so many countries, it can be tough to point out what the exact regimen is because each country has a different ways of practicing it (lard is used in Northern Italy for instance) but the core components of a Mediterranean diet is simple and can be easily summarized in 8 simple steps that you can easily incorporate in your daily life.
- Eat a lot of leafy veggies. Vegetables are a number one source of healthy nutrients and fats. Part of the reason why you should definitely include vegetable in your meal plan is because you can eat as much vegetables as you want without gaining an ounce of weight or unhealthy fat in your physique. The variety of vegetables to choose from is left at your discretion. These vegetables should be consistent in every meal and must take up at least half of your plate.
- Be physically active. Exercise is a catabolic stress event where nutrients are depleted, muscles and bones accrue microtears, heart and lungs are overlocked, and certain biological processes are deregulated. This fuels the body to adapt, become stronger, supersede past threshold, double up defenses and overcome the next stress test. Exercise also helps maintaining a good posture, boost your memory, and gives better endurance during sex.
- Drink a lot of water and wine in moderation. Wine (red wine) has been proven to be effective in helping your digestive system. It’s has antioxidants that reduces cholesterol and blood pressure. This should only be taken in moderation, a glass or two-thirds of a glass of wine after a daily meal is most recommended by scientists. Water should also be a prominent feature of your diet as it is very helpful in hydrating the body and it filters out the bad stuff from your body.
- Reduce your red meat intake. Although whether or not you should incorporate red meat into your diet is still a topic of discussion between international agencies and experts, those who practice Mediterranean-style diet cut back their meat intake and eat fish, poultry or other lean meats instead.
- Eat seafood once or twice a week. Most seafoods like tuna, salmon, sardines and herrings are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for weight loss.
- Use good fats. Good fats such as olive oils are low in cholesterol.
- Eat some dairy products. Ensure they are low fat dairy products but make sure to eat them in moderation.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Eating healthy breakfast improves energy levels and metabolism, reduces LDL cholesterol and prevents fluctuating glucose levels that leads to type 2 diabetes.
FOODS TO EAT:
- Vegetables & tubers: artichokes, arugula, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, celeriac, chicory, collard, cucumber, dandelion greens, eggplant, fennel, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, nettles, okra, onions (red, sweet, white), peas, peppers, potatoes, purslane, radishes, rutabaga, scallions, shallots, spinach, sweet potatoes, turnips, zucchini
- Fruits: avocados, apples, apricots, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, melons, nectarines, olives, oranges, peaches, pears, pomegranates, pumpkin, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes
- Nuts, seeds, & legumes: almonds, beans (cannellini, chickpeas, fava, green, kidney), cashews, hazelnuts, lentils, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds (tahini), split peas, walnuts
- Grains: bread, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, couscous, durum, freekeh, millet, oats, polenta, rice, wheat berries
- Herbs & Spices: anise, basil, bay leaf, chiles, clove, cumin, fennel, garlic, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, pepper, pul biber (Aleppo pepper), rosemary, sage, savory, sumac, tarragon, thyme
- Fish & Seafood: abalone, cockles, clams, crab, eel, lobster, mackerel, mussels, octopus, oysters, salmon, sardines, sea bass, shrimp, squid, tilapia, tuna, whelk, yellowtail
- Poultry & Eggs: chicken, duck, guinea fowl, quail, chicken eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs
- Cheese & Yogurt: Brie, Chevre, Corvo, feta, Halloumi, Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, ricotta, Greek yogurt
- Sweets: treats made with fruits, nuts, whole grains, and minimal sugars, baklava, biscotti, crème caramel, chocolate, gelato, kunefe, lokum (Turkish delight), mousse au chocolat, sorbet
- Meats: beef, goat, lamb, mutton, pork
- Added sugar: soda, candies, ice cream, table sugar
- Refined grains: white bread, pasta made with refined wheat
- Trans fat: found in margarine and various processed food
- Refined oils: soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil
- Processed meat: processed sausages & hotdogs
- Highly-processed food: anything labeled “low-fat” or “diet” or which looks like it was made from a factory
EASY MEDITERRANEAN RECIPES
The links below will equip you with knowledge of some simple recipes for the “standard” Mediterranean Diet:
- Arugula salad with chicken
- Avocado hummus
- Egg and Brown Rice Breakfast Bowl
- Pasta with Tuna and Tomatoes
- Tomatoes Stuffed with Peanut Quinoa
If you want to challenge yourself, here are some recipes for the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet:
We live in a society with most people living a sedentary lifestyle, eating processed food high in calories, saturated sugars and fats. Even though you might lose weight by dieting, it is inevitable that the weight will make its way back to you if you don’t implement drastic lifestyle changes. Adopting a Mediterranean diet is not just diet in the traditional sense of the word but more of a change in your lifestyle that will help you lose weight, boost your cognitive abilities, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and enable you to live a healthier and fuller life without starving yourself.
How about other diets – learn more about Keto diet here!