Are you finally starting to notice the buzz about the Mediterranean Diet? Here’s what you should know
The “Mediterranean Diet” is essentially mainstream validation of new scientific information regarding the health habits of people from the Mediterranean region. In fact, I was writing up sample meal plans for clients with meals like “Mediterranean Chicken Salad” and “Gyros” fresh out of college where I learned about the benefits of popular Mediterranean food (olives, cheese, lean meat, and more). That’s my way of saying I was about the Mediterranean diet before it was cool. Here’s what you need to know about the Mediterranean Diet:
1. High Fat Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is chock-full of nuts, olive oil, fish, and other healthy, high fat foods. In America we generally view fat as “bad” because we walk around the grocery store and see things advertised as “low-fat”, “reduced fat” or “fat free” everywhere (now we’re starting to see that with Gluten). Research is beginning to show more and more that fat isn’t necessarily bad for you…more of it actually may be better for you. In moderation, fat from plant based sources like almonds and olive oil may help reduce the risk of heart disease and may even help burn fat by mobilizing the fat already stored in your adipose tissue.
2. Food Sources
The Mediterranean Diet is almost exclusively whole, unprocessed food sources but is particularly higher in lean meats, fresh dark green vegetables, legumes, fish, and whole grains. Some of the foods that make this list are salmon, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, chicken, asparagus, kale, spinach, beans and wine.
3. Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Research is also beginning to show (over the last 5-10 years) that unsaturated fats from plant sources is helping to lower bad cholesterol (LDL), and balance good cholesterol (HDL) in people with high blood pressure and CVD. People from Mediterranean areas suffer from heart disease significantly less than Americans and think about it…they eat lean meats, plant based fats, whole foods and we eat fried everything, fatty meats (burgers, hot dogs, wings), and processed foods. Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for Americans and it’s also one of the most avoidable diseases.
4. Complete, Nutrient Dense Diet
Look closely at a Mediterranean Diet meal and compare it to an average American meal. The Mediterranean Diet meal is generally well balanced with lean meat (4-6 oz.), dark green vegetables, fresh fruit, complex carbs, wine, and olive oil or nuts. All different colors, textures, and flavors are found on that plate. With more variety and more colors comes more nutrients and health benefits.
5. Wine-centric Alcohol Consumption
Studies have shown that 2 glasses of red wine per day may help reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. Out of all your alcohol options, red wine is the healthiest due to it’s high level of antioxidants. While a craft beer may be delicious, if you’re left with the choice to opt for wine, you may want to consider it.
6. Not Calorie-Based
The Mediterranean Diet is based on a 2000 calorie diet. The meals aren’t pre-packaged and assigned an amount of “points”. The foods aren’t fortified with vitamins and minerals to make them more complete. The Mediterranean Diet is based off a whole foods, fresh produce perspective that values the quality of the food being eaten over the quantity available.
Take a Mediterranean Diet approach to all of your cuisines and you’ll be looking at great health and fantastic results. Bring high quality, diverse flavors and fresh ingredients to every meal you make. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store for 90% of your food and then go through the aisles and treat yourself to the things you crave. Most people do it the other way around.