You may have heard that a Mediterranean style of eating can lead to a healthier life, but what does this mean exactly? There is a lot of information out there regarding the Mediterranean diet and we have pulled together what it really means for you and why it really should be considered a lifestyle and not a “diet”.
The Mediterranean way of eating is, of course, adapted from those who live in the Mediterranean. Research suggests that following this eating pattern leads to decreased risk of heart disease, lower LDL levels, decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and cancer.
Eating foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, and some fish are hallmarks of this eating pattern. Yes, fats (especially plant based fats that aren’t saturated) are good for you! Eating the Mediterranean way doesn’t focus on limiting calories and fat consumption; it’s more about the types of fats and foods eaten.
Foods that are consumed frequently are fish, chicken (lean protein), nuts and seeds, lots of fruits and vegetables, olive oils, whole grains, whole grain breads and pastas, herbs and spices. Salt should be used sparingly and most flavor should come from fresh herbs and spices.
The experience matters just as much as the food when you follow the Mediterranean lifestyle. Cooking the meal and gathering with friends and family, as well as letting a meal last instead of rushing through, is ideal. This way you are truly able to savor and listen to your body’s cues of fullness. Having a glass of wine with dinner is common, though it is enjoyed thoughtfully and in moderation, if at all.
Red meat is typically consumed no more than once per week if that, and low fat dairy products are used instead of full fat. Choose unprocessed, unrefined oils (cold pressed is best) and avoid butter or any food high in saturated fats from animals, such as bacon or sausage. Load up on a variety of in-season vegetables, whole grains, minimally processed breads and pastas, and raw or dry-roasted nuts and seeds. Remove processed foods and avoid anything fried. Skip dessert and enjoy a ripe piece of fruit instead. Sugar should be consumed in small amounts if at all, and is more acceptable in the form of a natural sweetener.
Staying active is an important aspect of this lifestyle as well! It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but walking, playing a game, and physically exerting yourself for energy, metabolism, and health is vital.
(image courtesy of Fundacion Dieta Mediterranea)
The Mediterranean lifestyle is a well-rounded lifestyle that includes food, activity, and socialization. Following this lifestyle may be appropriate for you if you are looking to lead a healthier way of life in general. Some aspects may not work for everyone, but generally, it is a good place to start for lifestyle change.
As always, speak to your practitioner if you are interested in following the Mediterranean way of eating to be sure it is appropriate for you, or you can make an appointment to speak to one of our PreviMedica nutritionists by contacting us at 855-773-8463.
Stefanie Gates, chef, is a regular contributor to our blog and a culinary advisor for PreviMedica. She enjoys developing recipes and creating cooking videos to share with our readers, as well as working one-on-one with our clients to teach them valuable cooking skills. You can learn more about her here.