If you thought a Mediterranean diet was a strict diet with an outline of what to eat every day, you’d be wrong. It’s more of a term to loosely describe the diet of the 16 countries bordering the Mediterranean, just as the American diet describes the style of eating of most Americans. Since it encompasses so many different areas, the food varies, just as their economies, agricultural practices, and geography vary.
The Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes, and type 2 diabetes.
It includes whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. Animal products include fish, poultry, some dairy, and eggs. The main source of fat is olive oil and olives, but avocado oil, tahini, and grapeseed are also part of the diet. These foods contain heart-healthy fats. Certain spices and herbs are also used liberally in the Mediterranean diet. Garlic, well-known for its benefits for lowering blood pressure, basil, sage, rosemary, nutmeg, pepper, and cinnamon are all included. These all provide health benefits and flavor without increasing calorie intake.
Some of the benefits come from what isn’t in the diet.
The diet focuses on more fish and less meat. The fish includes fatty fish, high in omega-3 fatty acids. The meat is lean. Alcohol is consumed in moderation, but it mostly consists of a glass of wine. Processed food isn’t part of the diet. It includes whole-grain breads instead. Food with added sugar is limited. High-sodium food, refined carbs, processed meats, saturated fats, and sugary beverages are limited or eliminated.
The Mediterranean diet follows all the rules of healthy eating.
Eliminating trans fats and food with added sugar will make your diet healthier. The increase in fruits and vegetables and focus on fish at least once a week makes this diet healthy for almost everyone. Switching to whole grain products increases health benefits. The diet can reduce the risk of high cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and helps prevent heart disease and stroke. It can aid in preventing obesity and diabetes. The olive oil in the diet may aid in keeping blood vessels free of plaque.
- Fruit juice is limited to moderate use, but whole fruit consumption is encouraged. Coffee, tea, water, and approximately a glass of wine a day are drinks recommended on the Mediterranean diet.
- Eating in restaurants is tricky, but still possible. Choose several vegetable dishes with your food. Since the diet is more a concept than strict rules, some include potatoes, while others don’t. If they have whole grain bread, use olive oil, not butter, to top it.
- The Mediterranean diet improves brain functioning. A study of people over 50 who followed the healthy eating pattern revealed it reduced the risk of dementia by 90%.
- The Mediterranean lifestyle of socializing during a meal also proves to have benefits. It reduces stress and can lower blood pressure.
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