Are you looking for a new way to eat that is easy, healthy and not a diet? Then look no further! Just try the Mediterranean diet.
Despite the title, it is not a defined diet but rather a combination of eating styles from the Mediterranean region. The Mediterranean diet is actually a lifestyle that is associated with lower rates of chronic disease. Evidence shows that following this lifestyle of eating can help you lower your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, ﬁght certain cancers and chronic diseases, avoid diabetes, achieve weight management goals and more. The bonus is it is easy, affordable and delicious.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating abundant amounts of a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins. Incorporated into this lifestyle change is a focus on the importance of physical movement. In its namesake, people enjoy leisure exercise after meals. This may include a slow walk, leisure bike ride or other gentle movement to help the body begin the process of metabolizing food eaten. Some of us may remember parents or grandparents that used this same approach with an after dinner stroll around the block.
The Mediterranean diet reverses our usual American diet by taking the spotlight off meat and shifting it to whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead. This makes this method of eating an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans, as well as the meat eater. With a focus on lean protein this can include fish (excellent omega-3, vitamin D source), chicken, turkey and occasionally beef. For non-meat eaters or those looking to break the monotony of meat, legumes, beans, nuts and alternatives such as tofu, offer excellent lean protein sources.
Imagine building a pyramid from the bottom up. From greatest to least the emphasis is as follows: focus on eating foods in the company of others and remaining physically active. Why? In a group setting we relax rather than rushing through a meal. Remember it takes 20 minutes for the brain to register the signal from the stomach we are full. Getting up and moving after a meal improves digestion.
Next are whole grains (gluten-free if needed), vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs, spices and healthy fats all falling into most emphasized position. Then added are fish and/or seafood twice weekly. In a smaller top portion of the pyramid falls poultry, eggs and fermented dairy or soy, cheese. At the narrow peak we find sweets and beef, eaten infrequently (no more than once a week). Water is encouraged for hydration and flushing of toxins from the body. For those that enjoy an occasional glass of wine this is also included.
For most of us the Mediterranean diet includes foods we already eat making the change easy on the budget. A simple shifting of our emphasis on individual foods can hold the key to health, longevity and reduced disease.