What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Most everyone agrees the Mediterranean diet is healthy. But what is the Mediterranean diet?
Since so many countries border the Mediterranean Basin and each native cuisine is different, knowing how to best benefit from the Mediterranean diet can get very confusing.
So, what is the healthy Mediterranean diet? Research shows the traditional Mediterranean diet before the 1960’s, in countries like Southern Italy and Greece, was far healthier than typical modern diets. Life expectancy was higher, with a lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes.
What is the Mediterranean Diet Historically?
The traditional Mediterranean diet was abundant in high fiber foods and rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, omega 3 oils and other essential fatty acids.
- They mainly ate plant foods, including whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. And fresh fruits and vegetables were eaten in large quantities, up to ten or more servings a day.
- Natural organic olive oil was used generously. Whereas total dietary fat content could be up to 35 percent of calories, saturated fat was only 8 percent or less.
- They generally ate a variety of protein foods. Dairy was eaten daily in small quantities, mainly as yogurt and cheese.
- Cold water fish was served at least two or three times a week.
- Eggs were eaten several times a week, often in whole grain bakery goods.
- Poultry was usually served weekly.
- And lean red meat was eaten only a few times a month.
- Honey was their main sweetener, but was used only occasionally.
- Drinking one or two daily glasses of wine was common, but rarely overdone.
The traditional Mediterranean lifestyle was healthy. Daily physical labor, necessary for survival, kept them well exercised. Social and family ties were very strong and supportive. Families and friends got together for fun and relaxing meals. And they often took midday rests.
How the Mediterranean Diet Can Work for You
Since it doesn’t require drastic restrictions for fats, protein or carbohydrates, a modified Mediterranean diet is probably the easiest for anyone to maintain long-term. Here’s how:
- Eat an abundance of natural whole plant foods, with at least 5 to 9 daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. A healthy salad every day would be a good idea.
- Include other high fiber foods, such as whole grain pasta and sprouted breads.
- Use organic extra virgin olive oil on salads and bread (instead of butter). But remember that olive oil has 100 calories per tablespoon, so use it moderately.
- Make sure you get enough omega 3 fatty acids by including more cold water fish in your diet, such as salmon, trout and tuna, and by taking daily omega 3 fish oil capsules.
- Keep saturated fats down to a minimum. Choose fish, lean poultry and low-fat dairy for protein foods instead of red meat. And use cheese and butter only in moderation.
- Serve beans with meals and eat small servings of almonds or walnuts for snacks.
- If you drink alcohol, red wine is preferable, with a limit of one or two glasses daily.
- Avoid Trans-fatty acids (mainly in hydrogenated oils and deep fried foods) and eliminate or greatly limit high glycemic carbohydrates (such as sweets, white bread and pastries).
Lead a healthy lifestyle that includes as much daily physical activity as possible. Hang out with positive people. And make sure your calorie intake supports a normal healthy weight.