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The Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet

on Friday, 21 November 2014. posted in lifestyle, nutrition

The Mediterranean diet is more a way of life. It is not a restrictive diet and does not have strict guidelines to follow. It is simply how people in the Mediterranean choose to eat, and it has them healthy, fit and living long - as some of the healthiest people in the world.

The Mediterranean diet stems from Greece, Southern Italy and Spain. I was lucky enough to experience it first hand, travelling these countries for 5 weeks last month. Obesity is not commonly seen over there, but they LOVE good food. Seriously, everywhere closes at lunch time for a couple of hours so they can go home and enjoy their lunch! They are very mindful with food, they appreciate it, and take their time to eat. They really enjoy cooking, eating together and also often enjoy a glass of red wine with their meals. In these countries they seemed to eat what they wanted! Pastas, paellas, salads with cheese and olive oil, delicious fish/seafood with vegetables and rice or potatoes, hearty soups, lots of freshly baked breads and even enjoyed desert sometimes too. But, they are not greedy - they don’t eat quickly, their meal sizes aren’t too big and they don’t eat or drink too much.

Why is it healthy?

The Mediterranean diet is an extremely healthy way of eating, the scientific evidence is overwhelming (see below for related research papers). It is balanced, does not restrict any food groups, includes lots of food that grows from the ground and is realistic long term.

There is strong evidence showing that the Mediterranean diet is great for heart health. Research has also shown that it can reduce and be protective against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. Following the Mediterranean diet can assist weight loss and reduce the chance of obesity.  It is a great way to lose and control weight and improve your health.

What does it include?

The Mediterranean diet includes:

  • High amounts of vegetables & fruit
  • High amounts of beans, legumes and grains (rice, oats, fresh wholegrain breads)
  • Medium amounts of fish and white lean meats (chicken)
  • Medium amounts of dairy produce (milk, yoghurt, cheese)
  • Some extra virgin olive oil and nuts
  • A glass of red wine, with a meal
  • Lots of herbs and spices in cooking
  • Low amounts of red meat and sweets

How do I implement it?

Okay, to put it into perspective, if we were to talk amounts per day it would look something like:

-Vegetables - around 400-500g per day (5 or more fresh various vegetables)

-Fruit - 2-3 pieces per day, fresh fruit is a typical dessert

-Legumes, beans, rice, pasta, oats - around 100g  per day, or more depending on activity level

-Wholegrain breads - 3-4 slices per day

-Fish and lean white meat 1-2 moderate serves a day

Oily fish - like salmon, sardines, mackerel at least twice a week

-Nuts - if you enjoy them, around for 30g per day 

-Extra virgin olive oil - on bread, over vegetables, in cooking, over salads (no more than 40-60ml per day)

-Some natural or Greek yoghurt, milk and feta cheeses - but in moderate amounts

And eaten less often:

-Red meats (beef, lamb, pork) <once a week

-limit sweet foods and drinks to special occasions

-Red wine is fine in moderation if you enjoy it, no more than 1-2 glasses per day and with a meal

So you can see a lot of the food eaten is minimally processed and food which grows from the ground (plant food) including: vegetables, fruit, potatoes, breads and grains, legumes, beans and nuts.

The Mediterranean diet involves a lot of cooking! Home cooking is a great way to incorporate all these nutritious foods with herbs, spices, olive oil, tomato based and fresh sauces to make your meals taste great. It is also encouraged to sit down at a table and enjoy your meals, it really helps with mindful eating (not over eating) and satiety (feeling content and full).

Further reading?

You can access all the research papers on the Mediterranean diet through this website

http://www.predimed.es/publications.html

And find many Mediterranean recipes here

Mediterranean Recipes (filter 'Mediterranean' in window)

Plus some example meals in the day of a Mediterranean diet

Example of a Mediterranean diet

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