The Mediterranean Diet

I had a student in my class who was born and raised in Greece.  She gave a class presentation on the Mediterranean Diet.   She shared with the class stories about her childhood and what life is like in rural Greece.  Interesting to me, she told the class that it is almost impossible to find a steak anywhere.  Instead, people go fishing early every morning and primarily eat fish and lamb for their meat.  Many families rarely go to the grocery store, but rather grow their own fruits and vegetables.  They do not use butter, but olive oil for bread (and everything else).  And of course, they drink a lot of red wine.   I found it interesting that their diet is primarily based on eating whole foods.

While there may be many people out there trying to profit off of selling the Mediterranean diet, it is really not all that complicated.  The diet is based on eating lean meats, like fish, and is primarily a plant-based diet.  There is an emphasis on consuming beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains along with plenty of olive oil and a moderate amount of dairy.  My only disagreement with the diet is the emphasis on red wine, as I question the health benefits of wine.  It is a good idea to limit, even avoid, red meat as it is high in saturated fat and HCAs (which are carcinogenic).  Adding to the healthfulness of the diet, olive oil contains oleic acid which is good for lowering blood cholesterol, improving insulin sensitivity and it possesses antioxidant effects.

Studies have shown that maintaining a diet with attributes of the Mediterranean Diet, along with exercise and refraining from smoking, can significantly reduce rates of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Although the diet emphasizes olive oil, which is high in calories and fat, many people appear to be able to lose weight on the diet.  This doesn’t surprise me as I have seen many people lose weight by focusing more on eating whole foods over calorie counting.  This doesn’t mean you should go hog wild on eating olive oil, but consuming moderate amounts doesn’t appear to hinder weight loss.

If you are interested in giving this diet a try, here are some ways to go Mediterranean.

Eat whole, plant-based foods.  Remember, whole means eating natural and not processed foods.  This doesn’t mean you can’t prepare or cook foods, it just refers to keeping your ingredients simple.

Center your meals around grains, vegetables and legumes.

Choose snacks like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  Also dairy.

Use vegetable oils instead of butter or margarine.

For meat, eat fish, poultry and eggs. Limit red meat.

Exercise every day.

Simply making these types of lifestyle-based choices can help you either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

 

About Kimberly Dawson, M.S.

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