Obesity and cardiovascular disease are the most common health problems in today’s society – as these problems spread so do the “solutions” and “recipes” to beat them.
Since the 70’s many academic studies has recognized an association between the Mediterranean diet and a reduction in premature death from causes such as cardiovascular disease. These findings are the reason why it has come to be viewed as a model diet for good health.
When the issue requires a lifestyle change, rather than a weight loss plan, long term strategies are the most appropriate and realistic way to face these changes. The (now fashionable) Mediterranean Diet is a healthy eating plan based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean style cooking. It’s a lifestyle rather than an occasional diet and it incorporates many of the most common doctor and nutritionists’ recommendations.
The most appealing part of the Mediterranean diet is that it beautifully combines high quality and heart friendly food in such a way that you actually enjoy it and its health benefits! Let’s try to summarize this diet’s main characteristics and then you can decide if you feel like turning Mediterranean or not.
Veggies, fruits and whole grains. Abundant and minimally processed plant food is the base of the diet. Fresh and varied fruits and veggies are part of every meal and snack. Switching to wholegrain bread, rice and pasta is a smart way to ensure enough fibre intake for your daily requirements. Having fresh fruits as dessert is also a good habit to get the right amount of vitamins, antioxidants and fibre. (And satisfy that sweet tooth!)
Go nuts! Nuts and seeds are good sources of fibre, protein and healthy fats. Almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts are a fantastic snack but they have a high calorie density as well, so keep in mind to limit yourself to no more than a handful a day. Seeds (such as sesame, flax, sunflower, and pumpkin) are fun way to renew your salad recipes!
Healthy fat. There’s no way to go Mediterranean without Olive Oil! Olive oil is the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, which is a heart smart habit, given that it’s basically monounsaturated fat (a type of fat that help to reduce the “bad” cholesterol levels).
Another healthy option is the Canola oil, whose Omega 3 fatty acids and unsaturated fat can lower triglycerides and decrease blood clotting (which means decreased chances of sudden heart attacks, improved blood vessels health and assists in the management of moderate blood pressure).
Fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon — are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is eaten on a regular basis in the Mediterranean diet.
Less red meat. The Mediterranean diet doesn’t include more than a few (small) portions of red meat a month, which helps to control the cholesterol levels. Poultry and (a lot!) of fish is consumed instead. High-fat and processed meats, like bacon and sausages, are basically excluded.
Low fat dairy. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese. The classic bread with butter turns into bread with olive oil when you become a Mediterranean eater.
Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and can stand in for salt and fat in recipes.
Go more Mediterranean. Make breakfast and lunch your main meals of the day, be physically active and be more social.
There are great recipes everywhere that mix up all these tips into fabulous meals! Hummus, Greek Salad and a Fish couscous can be as delicious as healthy. Go ahead, taste the good health!