Is the Mediterranean Diet Right for You?
Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see a news article or social media announcement citing the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Mind you, I believe that there is no shortage of scientific and anecdotal evidence to conclude that one can lose weight and enjoy a healthier lifestyle by adhering to a diet that consists “primarily of plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts and . . . replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil.”
The “health benefits” of a Mediterranean diet were evident to me when I lived in Italy, Greece and Spain for close to 10 years. The incomparable taste of fresh and varied Mediterranean cuisine was a delight.
In fact, adopting just a few eating habits recommended in the “Mediterranean diet” is more of a lifestyle change than a diet.
As Dr. Kenneth Pelletier explains that all diets tend to work because we pay attention to what we are eating. In this very informative video below, Dr. Pelletier provides some easy steps you can take to improve your overall health by eating a healthy Mediterranean diet.
10 Easy Steps to a Mediterranean Diet
Summarizing Dr. Pelletier’s observations, he recommends 10 easy steps to alter your lifestyle and health in a very positive way. Why don’t you “Go Mediterranean” and see the difference in makes in your life.
- High Intake of Whole Grains and Unrefined Carbohydrates: Substitute white bread and white rice with whole grain varieties and cut back or eliminate processed foods with high levels of sugars.
- Eat Deeply Colored Fruits and Vegetables: The intense color of fruits and vegetables is a clear signal that the level of antioxidants are high which helps to protects your cells.
- Salads: Salads reduce the level of acids in the body by producing alkaline to combat potentially destructive acids in your blood and digestive system. This is a very easy and potent way to prevent inflammation.
- Higher Vegetable Fats: Focus on consuming monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avoid butter and fried products.
- Moderate Alcohol Consumption: A glass or two a day of wine is fine. Red wine is best since it is high in antioxidants and tends to boost “good” cholesterol in your body.
- Legumes or Beans: These are a great protein complement.
- Nuts: A healthy and enjoyable snack. Nuts are high in monounsaturated fats and Vitamin E and antioxidants and folic acid. I eat 10 nuts twice a day as a snack.
- Main Protein is Fish: Focus on deep ocean cold-water fish as a substitute for red meat. Fresh fish is high in Omega-3 and tend to provide better nutrition than pork and poultry. Best to bake, roast and broil the fish rather than fry it.
- Blue and Purple Fruits: Fruits like grapes, blueberries, and pomegranates tend to have higher levels of antioxidants.
- Reduce Salt and Refined Sugars: Sugar is simply empty calories and can increase the risk of diabetes. By reducing the consumption of processed foods you will reduce salt levels significantly as 70% of the average American’s daily intake comes from processed foods.
Apply some or all of Dr. Pelletier’s recommendations and you will be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle. In fact, people living around the Mediterranean Sea have been eating this way for centuries and tend to have fewer health ailments than societies that consume more processed foods. Oh, did I say that fresh food tastes better too!
Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
It seems that every week, one scientist or another is “discovering” another health benefit of the Mediterranean diet. I take these studies with a grain of salt, but clearly there is overwhelming evidence to support that fact that eating a healthy Mediterranean diet as described above improves your well-being. Found below are some of the more commonly cited benefits of the Mediterranean diet from WebMD:
For your heart and body and brain, a Mediterranean-style diet may:
- Prevent heart disease.
- Lower the risk of a heart attack.
- Lower cholesterol.
- Prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Prevent metabolic syndrome
- Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia
- Parkinson’s disease.
Now, this is a particularly impressive list of serious health problems that can be avoided by adopting a Mediterranean lifestyle. I am not a qualified medical scientist to opine on these claims, but there does seem to be an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that eating fresh organic fruits and vegetables does improve one’s health. Nevertheless, consult your own physician to determine if the Mediterranean diet can be of benefit to you.
It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Mediterranean Lifestyle.
One of things I hate about diets are DIET RECIPES! I am far more interested in the philosophy behind a particular diet than any recipe or list of “Do’s and Don’t.”
Most people who truly understand the health benefits of a Mediterranean lifestyle move far beyond food to embrace a more holistic and sensible approach to living. Sure, eating the right food is a critically important part of the Mediterranean diet, but organizations such as Positive Health Wellness emphasize other aspects of a healthy lifestyle: exercise, proper eating habits, dining together as a family and ridding yourself of stress and letting go of activities that are harmful to your well being.
As a word of caution, I would immediately dismiss anyone promoting the Mediterranean diet who leads with recipes. Consider the “big picture” and embrace a healthy lifestyle that will do wonders to your well-being.
The Next Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle
As Dr. Pelletier suggests, begin incorporating one or more of these Mediterranean eating habits into your diet and you will soon be on your way to a more healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, it tastes great and soon you will be bypassing those processed food toxins for “real” food with “real” health benefits and – who knows? – you just might shed a few pounds without the stress of crash diets and fads.
While I have always felt there was a benefit to eating fresh food products, my main motivation has been to experience authentic flavors of farm-raised vegetables, fruits and meats. A recent trip to Italy confirmed that farm-raised vegetables and fruits have a far richer flavor profile than factory-farms.
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