Taking A Tour Of The Mediterranean Diet
There are 21 countries that make up the Mediterranean–Algeria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain, just to name a few.
They have all played an important role in shaping our Western views in terms of philosophy, science, mathematics, art, and diet.
Speaking specifically about diet, studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet has a positive reduction of heart disease, reduced rates of cancer, and fewer cases of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
This diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats, all key ingredients to a heart-friendly diet. You may be wondering, what makes their diet so different and more effective than ours?
Well, lets start with their climate, hot and dry in the summer and mild and rainy in the winter. This climate lends itself to bountiful crops of grapes, olives, figs, and fruits.
The main source of protein for Mediterraneans is the vast amounts of fish and seafood. Chicken, goat and sheep are also protein sources, but not consumed as much as fish. This is a huge difference for our Western diets, with beef, chicken and pork being the main ones.
A Healthy Approach To Contemporary Eating
The Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid showcases a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish and seafood, and less on eating red meat and dairy.
Surprisingly, Mediterraneans do consume large amounts of healthy fat sources, like olive oil, nuts, avocados, and dark chocolate.
So, how in the world can the Mediterranean diet be considered heart-healthy, with the large amounts of fats and oils that are consumed?
Well, not all fats are created equal. Mediterraneans consume higher amounts of monounsaturated fats while consuming less saturated fats.
While Westerners, on the other hand, tend to do the opposite and consume more saturated fats and less monounsaturated fats, putting their hearts at risk for disease and damage.
The trick is– focusing on the different types of fats that consume a diet and regulating or changing them.
The dietary habits in our Western world are evolving with education and understanding. Dietary habits are changing as people are incorporating the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle into their own lives, understanding the value it offers for long term health.
Let’s Take A Closer Look At The Heart–
The heart is a mystical thing and captivates our lives in so ways, we say we “love with all of our heart”, a person who is courageous, is said to have a “fierce and strong heart”, and we’ve all had a “broken heart”.
As far as our health is concerned, the heart is the most important organ. It is the size of a human fist, weighing a little over a pound. This little machine keeps the body functioning every minute of every day, and this is why making sure to keep it healthy is of upmost importance.
Following the Mediterranean diet is the first step in safeguarding the heart and all of its functions to avoid disease and damage.
Minimize Your Risks–Take Charge of Your Health
Don’t worry–making the change to a Mediterranean diet doesn’t mean that you have to go on a low-fat diet, it simply means finding new ways to tip the scale towards the healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil, canola oil, olives, nuts, and avocados, and staying away from the saturated fats, like animal fats.
One nice thing about eating a good amount of dietary fat, is that it leaves you feeling fuller longer, meaning less calorie consumption during the day.
Incorporate A Mediterranean Diet
With These 7 Steps:
—Make plant-based foods the foundation of every meal (Mediterraneans commonly consume five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables every day, while the legumes and grains are the other staple. Consuming foods in this category is naturally low in calories and high in nutrition, which is a bonus for weight and health management)
—Eat seafood and fish on a weekly basis (seafood is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, mainly because it is a local product and the least expensive. They enjoy every type of seafood from octopus to lobster.
—Limit your consumption of all red meats (I know this one is a tough one, because in our Western culture we consider protein foods to be strictly beef, chicken, pork and fish, but Mediterraneans view it as a luxury item, consuming it once or twice a month rather than several times a week.) And, when it is served, it is in smaller portions like 2-3 ounces as a side dish and not as a main entree. This habit has helped them to ensure a reasonable intake of saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids. But don’t panic, you don’t need to cut out red meat completely, the goal is to eat less animal proteins and more plant-based ones.)
—Consume less dairy (less is more when it comes to dairy, consume just two to three servings a day–such as yogurt, milk or cheese.
—Use herbs and spices to enhance flavors (flavoring food with herbs and spices can not only improve the flavor but many herbs have health and healing benefits, such as–oregano and basil, which are both full of antioxidants and have anti-bacterial properties, so go ahead and spice it up)
—Drink wine and be merry (a glass of red wine with dinner has special nutrients, helping with heart-health, but that it is not the only benefit a glass of wine can have for the heart. By enjoying a glass of wine with friends and family, studies have shown that connecting and communication is healthy for the heart.
This is also the Mediterranean way, as their culture embraces life and food to the fullest–probably one of the best benefits of following the Mediterranean Diet!
Finding and following the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, is a way of life. Their culture understands how to embraces the sunshine, good food, and beautiful surroundings.
We can follow their lead and choose to live with passion, happiness, and good eating habits for better health.
Allow yourself to enjoy time with friends and family. Make it a priority to lessen the stress of life and find your passion, enjoy good food, a nice drink and time with your tribe.
I’d love your feedback or opinion on what you think about this article, please feel free to leave a comment or two. Thanks so much.
Resources: Rachel Berman, RD–Nationally Recognized Nutrition Expert
Photo Credits: Unsplash
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