THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET IS PROVEN TO BE ONE OF THE HEALTHIEST DIETS IN THE WORLD. BUT IT’S MORE THAN THAT. IT’S A HEALTHY WAY OF EATING FOR A LONGER AND BETTER LIFE.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Many studies have shown that people who lived in the Mediterranean area (especially around the year 1960) were healthier and lived longer than the average.
This simply means that if someone wants to improve his health and his overall quality of life he should eat the same things that those people ate during that time.Ahe health benefits linked to the Mediterranean diet are supported by scientific evidence. It is associated with lower all-cause mortality and morbidity (disease occurrence), and has been linked to numerous health benefits, including a lower risk of cancer, cognitive disease and cardiovascular disease as well as metabolic syndrome, obesity, and type 2 diabetes”.
According to healthline.com “the Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in countries like Italy and Greece back in 1960. Researchers noted that these people were exceptionally healthy compared to Americans and had a low risk of many lifestyle diseases”.
According to the Mayo Clinic “it is recognized by the World Health Organization as a healthy and sustainable dietary pattern and as an intangible cultural asset by the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization”.
In Greece we have two similar words but with a different meaning. The word “dieta” which means an eating schedule focused on weight loss and the word “diatrofi” from the words “dia” (through) and “trofi” (food) which means way of eating.
The Mediterranean diet is a complete, healthy way of eating focused on your well-being and not just on weight loss (though it can certainly help you lose weight).
WHAT IS THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
It is mostly a way of life and not a restriction of calories. The Mediterranean diet won’t make you weight your chicken or count how many almonds you’ll eat. It will train you to choose fresh, whole foods packed with nutrients and flavor, foods that will satiate your hunger and make you feel full. Foods that won’t make you feel guilty after eating them.
The goal here is not to feel deprived, but to enjoy the taste and the aroma of each bite you take. And remember: foods taste better when they’re local, on season and fresh.
I know that exercise is not considered to be part of a diet, but one of the reasons the Mediterranean people were so healthy is because they did a lot of exercise. They worked in the fields most of the day and also walked long distances to get from one place to another.
I know that exercise is not always easy, especially for those of us who live in the city. But we have to start from somewhere and the progress will come with time.
Maybe you can get a bike or get off the bus one bus stop earlier and walk the rest of the way home. Maybe you can start going to the gym or download one of those free apps for working out at home. Maybe you can walk your friend’s dog or stop using the elevator. Anything is better than nothing.
The last thing I really don’t want to neglect mentioning is being in contact with nature. I honestly feel that our modern way of life has driven us away from nature, and this comes at a great cost.
I still remember my shock one day when I realized that I hadn’t stepped on soil for over a month. Was that the reason I was feeling disconnected and not fulfilled? Probably it wasn’t the sole factor, but it certainly played its part.
Being in close contact with nature makes us value the natural, unprocessed foods more. It also reduces our everyday stress and our anxiety levels, calms our spirit, helps our body to detoxify and gives us the right perspective of things.
WHAT DO YOU EAT ON THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
- Eat whole foods, fresh and seasonal.
- Incorporate beans and legumes in your diet as often as you can. They ‘re the best source of plant-based protein.
- Try to incorporate vegetables and greens in all of your dishes. Also, have a salad with every meal!
- Eat fish and seafood twice a week (be mindful that today we have to be careful of the fish we eat because of the heavy metals they may contain).
- Eat white meat once a week.
- Eat red meat once a week or once every other week.
- Eat fruit for dessert. Limit desserts containing sugar to once a week (maybe on Sundays).
- Eat dairy (yogurt, feta cheese, milk) and eggs in moderation.
- Eat products made with whole grains and whole-grain sourdough bread.
- Wherever you can add herbs and spices do it!
- Drink lots of water and herbal teas without sugar or sweeteners (maybe add a bit of honey).
- Drink one glass of red wine 3 – 4 times per week (ask your doctor first).
- Walk as much as you can and exercise 3-4 times a week.
- Try to reduce your everyday stress by being close to nature (hug a tree!)
THE OLIVE OIL
Olive oil is the primary source of added fat in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat, which has been found to lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
If you live in a place where olive oil is too expensive and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, I suggest buying extra virgin olive oil and use half of it and half of another vegetable oil (like sunflower or corn oil) rather than buying a refined, lower quality olive oil. In this article you can find more information about the types of olive oil.
If you can incorporate other healthy sources of fat in your eating plan like nuts, tahini, avocado, feel free to do it.
WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED ON THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
- Added sugar: soda, candies, table sugar and many others.
- Refined grains.
- Trans fats (a.k.a. hydrogenated fat) like margarine.
- Refined oils.
- Processed meat and processed foods in general.
- Buying bottled lemon juice and bagged salad (of course it’s better to buy a packaged salad than not buying any at all).
CAN YOU LOSE WEIGHT ON THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
Incorporating all those whole foods, vegetables and fresh fruit to your diet will increase your fiber intake something that can help you feel satiated with less food. Eating nutrient dense and unprocessed foods will also help you decrease the amount of calories you eat every day.
That’s why the Mediterranean diet has been linked to increased weight loss, decreased inflammation, and a lower risk of chronic disease. But keep in mind that as with every other diet, in order to lose weight you must be in a caloric deficit.
CAN YOU EAT PIZZA ON A MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
Yes you can! As long as you make a whole wheat pizza dough and use many vegetables and some feta cheese.
CAN YOU DRINK ALCOHOL ON THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
One glass of red wine 3 – 4 times a week is okay! But don’t forget to drink lots of water too!
CAN YOU DRINK COFFEE ON THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
One or two cups of black coffee per day are okay. Try to also drink some cups of herbal tea throughout the weak.