Nicki Anderson: Mediterranean diet way to change lifestyle
By Nicki Anderson For The Sun March 4, 2013 5:42PM
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:11AM
Last week the benefits of consuming a Mediterranean diet were confirmed. Although the findings are not necessarily new, it is the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. For me, it simply affirms what I’ve been practicing for years. So, if you’re not following a Mediterranean diet, perhaps this column will inspire you to shift toward healthier eating.
The first time I heard the term Mediterranean diet was in the ’90s. It was actually introduced in 1993 by Oldways, Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization. This diet (not a weight loss diet, a lifestyle diet) is based on traditional foods consumed by those who live in the Mediterranean region, especially Greece. The Mediterranean diet includes:
Olives and olive oil
Whole grains mostly found in bread and cereal rather than pasta
Very little red meat
Fish and seafood
Some cheese but less milk
Lots of vegetables and fruit
Plenty of legumes and nuts
A little red wine
Though concern over the amounts of olive oil makes for a confusing conclusion, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help keep your arteries healthy. People in the regions who include olive oil in their diet have a much lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer than people in other parts of the world. However, keeping amounts in check is suggested.
Nonetheless, it certainly isn’t just olive oil that makes this diet a winner. It is the diet as a whole. The Mediterranean diet is very high in fiber and antioxidants. Greater consumption of vegetables, legumes and nuts along with lower intake of meats and milk, far surpasses the typical Western diet in terms of high-quality nutrition.
Here are some simple ways to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle.
Replace the fat you use now with olive oil. Though there are many oils being touted as the best oil, olive oil still remains a healthy source of fat.
Make your plate a veggie fest. I have always believed that every meal should have veggies as the dominant feature. A typical Mediterranean eats a pound of vegetables every day. Green and other colorful vegetables are typically low in calories and high in antioxidants. I’ve yet to hear of anyone gaining weight from eating too many vegetables.
The great carb dilemma. OK here’s what I believe, there are healthy carbs, and there is “carbage.” Healthy carbs are a good thing; carbage is the processed junk that isn’t good for you in any amount. Yet, it’s still important to practice moderation with healthy food choices. Focus on whole, rich grains that are high in fiber. Potatoes are not the devil — it’s the added cheese and bacon bits.
Eat poultry and fish. We all know that fish is a healthy addition to your diet because it contains omega-3 fatty acids that love your heart and brain. When selecting fish, pay attention to the best sources with regards to omega-3 content and environmental impact. Some sources include: Alaskan wild salmon, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, rainbow trout and mussels.
Carnivores take note: Though red meat might taste great, it has a lot of saturated fat that can compromise your health, particularly your heart. The Mediterranean diet includes about one red meat meal per month.
Experiment with nuts and legumes. Legumes have lots of fiber, protein and nutrients and can be used in a variety of main dishes. Lentil soup and bean salads are great options for meals. And nuts, especially walnuts, are a wonderful way to increase healthy fats in your diet. Again, moderation is key.
Water and wine. The Mediterranean pyramid includes six glasses of water every day, and a glass or two of red wine. Water is good for everybody, and wine is simply a personal choice.
We know that trendy diets don’t work. With the surplus of fad diets, the healthy of our country is not improving nor is our weight. Why not consider adopting a diet that is a lifestyle for so many and proves to be beneficial for your health? Think about the Mediterranean diet as a solid defense against disease.
The findings of the study can be found on the New England Journal of Medicine’s website at www.nejm.org.