Why the Mediterranean Diet is Good For Your Health
About the Author
Billi Grossman is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist. She is a licensed provider for Diabetes Free America and works extensively with schools. She teaches cooking and is experienced in working with whole foods. To learn more about her work, go to www.billigrossman.com
Still Life with Eggplant
High in vegetables, fruit, grains (complex carbohydrates) and fish, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to fight effectively against heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. It may also be protective from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. More recently, studies have suggested the Mediterranean diet may reduce one's risk for diabetes as it can be conducive to weight loss and glucose control.
Mediterranean ingredients primarily come from plants: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil are included each day. Fresh fruits and vegetables are central to the cuisine. Lots of fresh and dried herbs and spices are used, which means less added salt, sugar and fat when cooking while enhancing flavor and satisfaction. Lemon juice is used for add add both flavor and nutrients.
Focus on Good Fats
Olive oil is the primary fat used in cooking in the Mediterranian diet. Olive oil is low in saturated fat, a culprit in high cholesterol and heart disease. It is also high in monounsaturated fats which help raise HDL (helper cholesterol). Another source of healthy fat used in the diet is nuts.
High in Complex Carbohydrates
Beans and other legumes, and whole grains are low glycemic complex carbohydrates and can easily be incorporated into your healthy Mediterranean eating plan.
Small Portions of Lean Protein
Protein sources include chicken, low fat dairy, eggs, occasional lean meat and lots of fish. Portions of meats are small. A serving of fish, especially those that contain Omega-3 fatty acids, is included at least twice each week. Omega-3 fats are found in salmon, albacore tuna, halibut, herring, sardines, mackerel, and trout and are shown to promote good brain function and heart health.
Yogurt and fresh cheese such as feta and ricotta are encouraged daily. Studies have shown that eating yogurt daily is supportive of weight loss and the live cultures in yogurt are helpful to the digestive and immune systems.
Low in Added Sugars
Desserts usually focus around fruit and added fats and sugars are limited. There are delectable pastries as well, such as the rich, gooey and delicious baklava made with honey, nuts and phillo pastry. These are not the focus of the diet and portions are small. An occasional treat is OK in any healthy eating plan.
A small or moderate amount of wine can be incorporated into the diet, as well. Wine stimulates the heart and circulation opens the blood vessels. The cardioprotective benefits of wine are well documented. Especially red wine, which is high in antioxidants (resveratrol and flavonoids.) The Mediterranean Diet also recommends drinking at least 6 glasses of water daily.
Physical activity is key to the Mediterranean Diet. Engaging in daily physical activity for good health includes planned exercise and also being physically active in the course of daily living. Activities such as gardening, yard work, walking, taking the stairs, parking further from your destination are encouraged.
Far from food as entertainment and escape, the focus of Mediterranean lifestyle is on the enjoyment of good food and company. Sharing meals, eating slowly, and savoring your food are part of the healthy life.
The well balanced Mediterranean diet is based on solid scientific evidence and is linked to good health. It encourages enjoying small portions of fresh food and a physical lifestyle. It is a great choice for anyone who wants to live healthfully.
See the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid by Olwayspt.org
- Mediterranean Diet Pyramid | Oldways
Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of the World Health Organization introduced the classic Mediterranean Diet in 1993 at a conference in Cambridge, MA, along with a Mediterranean Diet Pyramid graphic to represent it