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Mussels, Olives, Blue Cheese Salami on Plate

Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

By Dr. Kristie

When it comes to health, diet plays an important role in how you look and feel and may even determine how long you live. There certainly seems to be a grain of truth to the old adage “you are what you eat.” When it comes to eating right, the Mediterranean countries seem to have an important advantage.

Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets when it comes to weight control as well as in terms of preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. If you’re ready to start tapping into the benefits of the healthy Mediterranean diet, here are some simple food adjustments you can make.

Add a little olive oil.

Olive oil is rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats. This is the type of fat that may have favorable effects on your lipid profile and help to reduce the risk of heart disease. If you’re currently using another oil, make the transition to extra virgin olive oil. You can use it for most applications except in cases where you’ll be using high heat.

Olive oil has a smoke point of around 250 degrees Farenheit making it unsuitable for sautéing at high temperatures or grilling. Substitute canola oil or grapeseed oil for these purposes. Olive oil is one of the key components of a healthy Mediterranean diet.

Think of meat in a new way.

Most Americans think of meat as being the primary focus of a meal. In the Mediterranean countries, meat is more of a condiment to be enjoyed in small quantities. When Mediterraneans add meat to their plate, it’s usually fish or very lean cuts of red meat.

Substituting fish for red meat is a healthy way to satisfy your protein requirements and add extra heart healthy omega-3’s to your diet. Learn to get over the idea that you have to have meat at every meal.

Rediscover vegetables.

Vegetables are an important component of the healthy Mediterranean diet. While Americans are more likely to choose potatoes as their side dish, the Mediterraneans pile their plates high with colorful vegetables in healthy shades of green, yellow, red, and orange.

If vegetables aren’t your favorite foods, try enhancing their taste with herbs, spices, and a splash of olive oil. You’ll be eating your veggies in true healthy, Mediterranean fashion.

Don’t forget the legumes.

Even though Mediterraneans don’t eat a lot of meat, they get adequate protein by regularly eating protein rich legumes such as lentils. Eating lentils is particularly beneficial for controlling weight since they promote satiety without adding excessive calories or fat. Plus, they’re quite economical.

A little alcohol may be beneficial.

Mediterranean diet foods are usually served with a little red wine which studies have shown may reduce the risk of heart disease as well as prolong life. Red wine contains a natural chemical known as resveratrol which studies have shown may play an important role in slowing down the aging process.

Limit your red wine intake to one glass per day particularly if you’re female. Some studies suggest that more than a glass of wine per day may increase the risk of breast cancer in women.

Rethink your snacks.

Instead of reaching for the cookie jar, snack in true Mediterranean fashion by munching on a handful of mixed nuts. Nuts are an excellent source of heart protective monounsaturated fats.

Need a little sweetness? Skip the ice cream and enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit that’s loaded with beneficial antioxidants. You’ll never have to feel guilty about snacking when you follow a heart healthy Mediterranean diet.

Last but not least, substitute whole grains for processed bread, flour, and cereals whenever possible. You’ll be getting more vitamins in your diet as well as extra fiber.

Who says a health Mediterranean diet has to be boring? Consider all of the options and start enjoying better health. 

About the Author

She is a Medical Doctor with a concentration in Family Practice. She also has an undergraduate degree in both Biology and Psychology and masters in Clinical Pathology.


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