The Mediterranean diet gets its name from the region whose healthy habits inspire this plant-based lifestyle. Cuisines and customs differ regionally, but people whose countries border the Mediterranean Sea tend to consume a diet high in vegetables, fish, nuts and unsaturated fats (like olive oil), and low in red meat and dairy. They also enjoy red wine in moderation and get plenty of exercise.
Realizing that residents of these countries live longer and suffer lower rates of chronic disease than Americans whose diets are comparatively high in refined grains and saturated fat, researchers hypothesized that eating a Mediterranean-style diet could prove beneficial to Westerners as well. Research has proven this theory correct on multiple counts.
The Basics of a Mediterranean Diet
Given its proven health benefits, simplicity and flexibility, the Mediterranean diet remains a popular eating pattern for dieters and health-conscious eaters around the world.
While there is no one specific “Mediterranean diet”, below are the basic principles of this common eating pattern:
Focus on plant-based nutrition. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables, plus beans and nuts for protein. Choose whole-grains like whole-wheat pasta and bread, quinoa or brown rice instead of simple carbs like processed snacks, white bread or sweets.
Focus on Fish
Choose fish and plant-based proteins as your main sources of protein. Include poultry and eggs in moderation, but save red meat and dairy products for special occasions.
Choose Healthy Fats
Switch-up your sources of dietary fat to favor healthy unsaturated fats over unhealthy saturated fat. For most people, this means swapping animal fats like butter or cheese for plant-based fats like olive oil. Also work on getting more of your daily fat from natural sources like nuts or avocado, instead of processed sources like cupcakes or crackers.
Spice it Up
The average American consumes more than 3400mg of sodium per day. That’s more than 1000mg more than the amount recommended by current dietary guidelines. As part of the Mediterranean diet, use less salt and more spices to season your food.
Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
Research shows that following a Mediterranean eating plan reduces the risk of heart disease and improves overall health. In fact, the traditional Mediterranean diet has been associated with:
- Lower LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Reduced risk of dying from a cardiovascular event
- Lower mortality overall
- Reduced incidence of cancer
- Lower risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
This long list of benefits explains why the Mediterranean diet was named the Best Diet of 2018 by a panel of experts and US News & World report, and remains one of the most professionally-recommended eating patterns in the world.
To learn the ins-and-outs of the Mediterranean Diet and the Mediterranean Cuisine as it once was, check out my book; It would help you to apply the Mediterranean principles into your life and those of your loved ones.
Have a great day while pampering your heart. And remember, the Mediterranean Diet can be your best hypertension and cholesterol treatment!