Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

The recent study on the Mediterranean diet has made major headlines recently. You can find articles about it on blogs, websites, social media and even in the New York Times. In the past, this well studied diet was shown to prevent heart disease and decrease risk factors, such as blood pressure and high cholesterol. This time they looked at concrete and life-threatening results such as myocardial infarction, stroke and death. In an unprecedented turn of events, they had to stop the study prematurely because the findings were so conclusive that it was no longer scientifically ethical to continue it any further.

If that isn’t convincing enough, I don’t know what is. I feel that this is a prime opportunity to discuss what the Mediterranean diet specifically is. I asked a handful of people to explain what they thought the Mediterranean diet was. The most common answer I got was, “add olive oil to everything you eat.” While it is true that extra virgin olive oil is a major component of the diet, there's also a lot more to it.

This picture describes the guidelines and principles of the Mediterranean diet in a nutshell (pun intended!)

It’s simple, satisfying and delicious! Here are some guidelines to make it easy for you to understand:

  • Eat Plant Based Foods – And eat them frequently. This includes fresh whole fruits, veggies and whole grains. Eat a variety of unprocessed plant foods during each meal. Aim to consume 5- 10 fruits and veggies per day! All bread, rice, pasta and cereal should be whole grain.
  • This is Nuts! Snack on a variety of nuts and seeds and use them in recipes. Choose from pine nuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose peanut butter and other nut butters without hydrogenated oils or added sugar (natural nut butters only).
  • Just say no to butter. Butter and margarine are both off the list in this plan. Stick with the best and most natural source of monounsaturated fat: extra virgin olive oil. It is the least processed and the highest oil in monounsaturated fat. Cook with it, use it for dipping bread, making sauces and dips, or as a sandwich spread.
  • Get Spicy! Season your meals with herbs and spices rather than salt. Fresh herbs and spices also contain additional health-promoting properties.
  • Something’s Fishy... Eat fish once or twice a week. Make sure it’s grilled, baked, roasted or broiled (don’t fry it!).
  • White meat only! Red meat is not recommended with this way of eating. Neither are processed meats such as bacon, sausage or cold-cuts. White meat such as turkey or chicken are ideal due to their low fat and high protein content.
  • Skinny Cow. Choose low fat or nonfat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Cheers! Seven glasses of wine per week is the recommendation (barring any substance abuse issues). Red grape juice also has similar health benefits if you want to substitute the wine.
  • Sweetness Commercially-made cookies, cakes and pastries are not recommended.

What I respect about this diet is that the foundation is whole foods! Interestingly enough, every recommendation is a natural food source. Sounds like we're getting back to the basics. I think this illustrates the point that the foods that are causing heart disease, cancer and other debilitating diseases are the ones that we have created ourselves as a society. In other words, processed foods. That certainly makes me think twice before eating a processed food. Perhaps it’s time to get back to the diets that our bodies were meant to metabolize? I’m hopeful that this new research can motivate us to make a change. For now, we can take the research and knowledge we're given and make our own decisions. That's how change is made. In the meantime, let's make some good tasting and good for you food!

I have created what I like to call the Mediterranean Diet NutriBlast. This blast can certainly be consumed straight up as a juice. You can also use it as a marinade, a salad dressing, a sauce for vegetables, a flavorful addition to soup or even use it to top grilled fish or chicken. You can combine the flavors that you like and make it your own. You could even simply add extra virgin olive oil to your favorite smoothie or juice in order to increase its nutritional impact. However you choose to use it, there is no doubt that it not only contains Mediterranean flare, but packs a powerful punch of nutrients that will keep you healthy for a long time to come.

Oh, and don’t forget that glass of wine. ;)

Click here to read my Mediterranean Diet Blast recipe!

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Triathlon Coach


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