A Mediterranean diet is a diet that incorporates the healthy eating practices of those living by the Mediterranean Sea, such as France, Spain, Greece, and Italy.
The Mediterranean diet is slightly different from region to region. Still, the core concept is to eat many vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, grains, legumes, fruits, and olive oil which has unsaturated fats. It includes low consumption of dairy and meat.
Researchers have noticed that those following the Mediterranean diet are much healthier compared to Americans, and they have fewer lifestyle diseases. It also aids in weight loss and the prevention of diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes.
The Mediterranean lifestyle also promotes daily exercise, having meals together, and enjoying the food while on a meal.
What does the Mediterranean diet comprise of?
These are the essential food items that you should be eating if you are on the Mediterranean diet.
- You should eat more vegetables, legumes, bread, herbs, fruits, seeds, nuts, seafood, spices, fish, and extra virgin olive oil.
- Try to eat poultry, cheese, eggs, yogurt in moderation.
- Eat red meat only rarely.
- Stay away from sugary food, processed sugar, refined and processed food items, and processed meat.
Which food items should you avoid?
If you start the Mediterranean diet, try to stay away from these unhealthy and highly processed foods.
- Anything that contains added sugar like candies, soda, table sugar, etc.
- Products that use refined grains.
- Trans fats (1) and processed meats.
- Refined oils and heavily processed foods.
Use healthy fats instead of unhealthy fats.
The primary source of fat that is seen in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil. It has monounsaturated fats that help to reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein or called ‘bad cholesterol.
You can get monounsaturated fats even from nuts and seeds. Another source of healthy fats is fatty fish like sardines, herring, or mackerel, rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They have monounsaturated fats that help to fight inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids also lower the risk of stroke and heart failure, blood clotting.
How can you transform your diet into the Mediterranean way?
You don’t have to be a resident of countries near the Mediterranean to adopt this healthy diet that has made its residents live longer. You can make changes in your present diet to bring it closer to the Mediterranean diet. Here are a few things that you will have to follow:
- Eat more starchy foods such as bread, rice, or pasta.
- Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Have fresh fruits in place of desserts. Every meal should have a good portion of vegetables.
- Try to have fish a few times a week and have any meat rarely.
- Use healthy sources of fats and natural oils to get all the nutrients from these fatty sources.
- Limit the intake of junk food, processed food, and alcohol.
- Drink plenty of water for optimum hydration.
Apart from food habits, try to get in physical activity to keep yourself fit and protect your cardiovascular health.
Benefits of a Mediterranean diet
Several studies have suggested that the Mediterranean diet can protect the heart from cardiovascular diseases and keep it healthy. Since the diet restricts the consumption of red meat, refined grains, and processed foods, it helps the heart stay safe and healthy.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, which means it provides ample fiber to the body that aids in smooth bowel movements. It also helps to prevent constipation and keep the digestive tract healthy. The high fiber content also controls blood sugar levels, and since it takes time to digest fiber, it keeps the stomach full for longer.
Fruits and vegetables are high in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals, thus acting as anti-aging food sources. This can be why people following the Mediterranean diet have a higher life expectancy and can retain their youthful nature.
Due to consuming high quantities of micronutrients, this diet protects the muscles from damage and increases muscular strength. It also improves brainpower, thinking, and concentration skills.
The fat sources for the Mediterranean diet are olive oil, nuts, and seeds, which contain monounsaturated fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids that reduce total cholesterol in the body, reduces bad cholesterol and helps fight against inflammation in the body.
The Mediterranean diet also promotes weight loss and helps keep it at bay if you follow it religiously. Losing weight and maintain a healthy body mass index can be a big reason to prevent lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. This diet promotes having a healthy relationship with food by encouraging people to eat clean and fresh.
Moderation is Key
While following the Mediterranean diet, you need to be careful that moderation and portion control can be game-changers that determine the success of this diet. It is correct that the Mediterranean diet is healthy and has lots of health benefits, but if you are not mindful of the portion of the healthy choices that you are consuming, then, in the long run, it won’t be effective.
If you notice that you are putting on weight even while following the diet, you need to check your portion sizes. Even too much healthy food can quickly pile up calories. Having an optimum weight helps prevent a host of other diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
The Mediterranean diet became a hot topic when researchers saw that people of the Mediterranean who ate a certain way were much healthy. This intriguing fact brought this diet into the limelight, and people started following it for various reasons. Some do it to lose weight or when they want to change their old eating habits.
Whatever the reason, we can be sure that the Mediterranean diet has many health benefits for our body. It promotes eating healthy fats, plant products and discourages the use of processed and refined foods. This makes it an excellent diet that will help the masses achieve their fitness goals and have an overall positive relationship with food.