The Mediterranean Diet that has been popular for centuries among residents of countries along the Mediterranean Sea and today is believed to help people to live longer, healthier lives. The Mediterranean diet is being credited for reducing people’s chances for developing heart disease, as well as reducing instances of other ailments like Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The basic staples of a Mediterranean diet include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts, fish and whole grains. These are the basic qualities of any healthy diet. However, in the Mediterranean diet, the difference is in the way food is cooked and how it is seasoned. Unhealthy fats are very limited in this diet and are often replaced with olive oil and spices for flavor, instead of relying on fat to give flavor to food.
The Mediterranean Diet Has Many Health Benefits
Research has proven that by closely following a Mediterranean diet, it can help to decrease one’s chances of developing heart disease and cut risks for things like strokes. Eating mostly plant-based foods and cutting down or stopping the use of butter and replacing it with olive oil are simple ways to get many of the benefits of a Mediterranean diet.
Other benefits can include weight loss and being able to stay at a healthier weight, which can reduce chances of developing other illnesses in the future like diabetes and conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Knowing what the health benefits are of following a healthier Mediterranean diet can help one to stick with the diet for life.
A Different Food Pyramid in a Mediterranean Diet
The food pyramid used when following a Mediterranean diet is different from the one traditionally used in other diets. The largest area of the pyramid consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, seeds, beans, olive oil, nuts, and spices and herbs. If vegetables are cooked, they are cooked in olive oil and seasoned with spices for flavor instead of relying on cooking methods like frying, or seasoning methods like coating vegetables with butter.
The area directly above fruits and vegetables on the Mediterranean diet food pyramid is fish and seafood. This includes fatty fish like tuna, salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines and mackerel. All these types of fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to improve and support heart health. In many Mediterranean areas, fish is eaten three or more days a week. Above fish and seafood on the pyramid is poultry, low-fat dairy products and eggs. These are eaten sparingly, with eggs only being eaten once or twice a week, or less.
At the top of the Mediterranean diet food pyramid is meats and sweets, which are eaten the least of any foods. Red meat is normally limited to only a few times a month, while sweets are usually saved for special occasions. When bread is a part of the Mediterranean diet, it is normally dipped in olive oil or seasoned olive oil instead of being covered in butter.
Adapting a Mediterranean Diet to Life Takes Adjustment
It may take an adjustment period to completely adapt a Mediterranean diet to your lifestyle, but in the end it can be worth it when health benefits are seen as a result of this healthier way of eating. Exercise is also a very important part of Mediterranean life. When meals are eaten, they are enjoyed in the presence of family and friends. They are also enjoyed in a more leisurely way, instead of being eaten quickly in front of a television set or while driving.
The largest emphasis is on making fresh fruits and vegetables the main staple of the diet. Vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants, which have been proven to improve health. In Greece, residents include six or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Bread is also an important part of the Mediterranean diet, but it normally consists of whole grain breads, not highly processed breads. The bread is either dipped in flavored or plain olive oil or eaten plain.
Olive Oil, Nuts and Fish Are Healthier Fat Choices
Olive oil is mostly a monounsaturated fat, which is the kind of fat that can eventually lessen a person’s LDL cholesterol. The best types of olive oil to use are those that are labeled as extra-virgin or virgin olive oils. These are processed less than other oils and contain more of the helpful plant elements which help to increase the antioxidant benefits of olive oil.
Nuts are higher in fats, but it is a healthier type of fat. Still, the use of nuts should be limited to just a handful for a snack and not eaten in larger amounts because of their high calorie content. It is also best to avoid nuts that are flavored with sugar coatings or a lot of salt. This can cut the benefits of the nuts themselves, making them a less healthy option.
Fish is a huge part of a Mediterranean diet, mostly because Mediterranean countries being located near the sea. Fish is also high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which have been proven to help to lessen chances of a sudden heart attack, improve the overall health of a person’s blood vessels and can also help to decrease blood clotting and help to lower blood triglycerides.
Wine Is Also a Factor
Red wine is also used in moderation in Mediterranean countries. A normal serving is about five ounces per day for women and no more than ten ounces a day for men. If a person has trouble with alcohol, it can be eliminated entirely from the diet. For many people, however, it can be a beneficial part of a healthy diet when used in moderation. Red wine has antioxidant properties which have been shown through some studies to lower a person’s risk of heart disease.
Tips for Following a Mediterranean Diet
Switching to whole grain breads and cereals is a great start towards following a healthier diet. Putting fruits together in a fruit salad form is a great way to add extra fruit to any diet. Keep plenty of apples, bananas and tiny carrots on hand for quick snacks. Pasta and rice can be switched to whole grain varieties. Keeping seeds and nuts in the pantry for snacks is another great idea. Pistachios, walnuts, almonds and cashews are all good choices.
Instead of butter, try using more olive oil in cooking and for dips for bread. It can even be drizzled on pasta after cooking, and seasoned with a small amount of green onions and garlic to add flavor. Creativity can help in cooking to make food taste delicious, and chances are that butter will not be missed. Spices and herbs can also be used in place of salt.
Increase use of fish and cut way back on red meat in the diet and see what a difference it makes in energy, stamina and the way you feel. Eating healthier can be easy to do when following a Mediterranean diet. Once many people switch to this way of eating, they don’t go back to their old ways of eating. Being healthier feels great, and can lead to a longer life, with a better quality of life.
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