The Mediterranean diet is one of vibrant colors and rich flavors and tastes. In a sense, it is more of a lifestyle than a diet, as you are encouraged to enjoy the flavors of food and to eat with others and partake in daily activity. It is a diet that is inspired by seasonal food and stems from several years of the traditional celebration of food. This is a diet that is arguably the most scientifically validated in the history of man!
It was in the 50s when people took note of the very low rates of disease and cancer in the people of Crete, and this is where interest in their culture was rooted. After much research, it was discovered that the Crete peasant-based diet of mostly plant foods and small helpings of olive oil and white meat — mostly fish — contributed to their overall health.
Swapping out your regular vegetable oil, coconut oil, or butter for olive oil takes you one step closer to a Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is a fat that is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids known to improve HDL cholesterol in the body. But, of course, you must be thinking, “why would I want cholesterol in my body?”. The thing is, there are two types – HDL cholesterol is the good type which actually ferries the bad LDL cholesterol out of the circulatory system. Experiment with flavoring your olive oil with a variety of herbs or garlic and making vinaigrettes to drizzle over your salads and white meat.
Fish and Seafood
Keep red meat to an absolute minimum and focus on adding plenty of fish to your diet. Fatty fish like mackerel, sardines, and salmon are especially good options when available. These types of fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids which promote better brain and heart health. However, cod and tilapia varieties are still good sources of protein, though they are leaner. Begin adding more fish to your diet by making one or two nights a week a fish night! Look for recipes that allow you to prepare your fish in parcels like foil packets or even parchment paper, making it that much easier to pull a meal together. Don’t forget about soups, tacos, and stir-fries with your favorite seafood!
Vegetables make up the largest portion of the Mediterranean diet. Snack on carrots, bell pepper strips, tzatziki, hummus, and cucumber throughout the day to enjoy many health benefits as well as a reduced waistline! Make changes to your diet gradually, and grow to love your veggies. Adopting a Mediterranean diet will be far easier and more effective if you enjoy it, so begin by replacing one of your snacks with a vegetable meze platter or just swapping your bowl of crisps for a crunchy carrot! Small changes will eventually lead you to adopt a full Mediterranean diet – one step at a time!
Whole grains are grains that have not been refined and are consumed in their whole form. Try quinoa or barley as these are two types of whole grains that fill your tummy well so you won’t overeat. Add a variety of vegetables for flavor and texture and use herbs to bring it all together. If the change is too stark for you, begin by simply swapping your white pasta or rice for whole-grain varieties — or at least a half and half blend.
Nuts and Dried Fruit
Instead of junk food — which is highly refined and full of harmful preservatives, flavorings, colorants, and other junk — opt for a handful of healthy nuts and a selection of dried fruit. Keep portion sizes very small, but enjoy the variety. Empty calories add up very fast! Munching on nuts and fruit will keep you satisfied for longer and help you pull yourself to your next meal with far lower calorie intake. The added fiber and minerals don’t hurt either!
Fruit For Dessert
Eventually, give up those sugar-filled and calorie-dense desserts for refreshing and nutritious fruit bowls. Serve pretty chopped fruit with a dollop of yogurt and perhaps some chopped mint for a delicious end to your meal. You will feel fabulous!
We all know that Meditarreans love themselves a bit of wine, and there is no reason for you to deny yourself a little indulgence either! Wine is beneficial in small amounts. As long you stick to the guidelines (which is 3oz serving for a woman and a 5oz serving for a man), you are good to go!
While the Mediterranean diet does vary along the coastline, these basic foods are pretty much the general basis of a Mediterranean diet. Ultimately, stick to whole, healthy, and plant-based food items and just a little of everything else on the list, and you will find your health improve significantly!