Updated: May 15, 2019
Welcome to Week 1 in this 5-week Mediterranean Diet series. May is Mediterranean Diet month, so I thought I’d take the chance this month to go over the Mediterranean Diet. Many of you may have heard of the Mediterranean Diet before and how it is beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Studies also show a link between the Mediterranean Diet and improved blood sugars, reduced risk of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and improves overall mortality.
How is the Mediterranean Diet able to improve overall health so significantly?
This diet is rich in fiber, unsaturated fat, anti-oxidants, and other nutrients, all of which provide a plethora of health benefits. This this diet provides so many essential nutrients because it consists of whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats, nuts and seeds, lean protein, and red wine.
Key components of the Mediterranean Diet:
Whole grains are a large component of the Mediterranean Diet and are where a majority of the fiber in this diet comes from. Whole grain bread is eaten dipped in olive oil rather than slathered with butter. Other whole grains such as farro, wheat berries, and bulgur are often prepared mixed with vegetables and olive oil instead of using refined, white pastas coated in butter or bacon grease.
Low-fat dairy such as skim milk, naturally lower-fat cheese, and lower fat yogurt help to reduce saturated fat intake.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are eaten at every meal. Instead of having a highly processed chocolate chip cookie for dessert every night have a bowl of fruit, or instead of ice cream have a cup of plain Greek yogurt topped with fruit. Fruits and vegetables offer fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Olive oil is used in abundance in this diet. It can be seasoned with herbs and used as a dip for bread, used to sauté vegetables, used as a base in dressings, or drizzled over pasta. Olive oil is a great source of unsaturated fats, specifically monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid. It also contains the polyunsaturated fats omega-3 and omega-6.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds provide unsaturated fat, fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals. Roasted nuts that are lightly salted are best.
Lean proteins such as eggs, poultry, legumes, fish, or lean red meats make up a small portion of the Mediterranean diet. Protein is still an essential component of our diet; however, it should not make up the majority of your meal. Meat/protein should make up no more than a quarter of your plate. Instead of the protein being the star of the show, make the fruits and veggies the star and protein a side.
Red wine is consumed in moderation, ~1-2 glasses/day. Red wine contains resveratrol which is an antioxidant that is beneficial to heart health. Resveratrol may help increase HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and lower LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol).
The Mediterranean Diet is based on the local foods of the Mediterranean area, but this diet can be easily adapted just about anywhere in North America. All the components of this diet can be easily found at your local grocery store, and a simple Google search can help identify Mediterranean Diet friendly recipes.
Still having trouble putting it all together? We still have 4 more weeks of this series, but if you would like additional help putting this diet into practice, contact a dietitian for a grocery store tour or consult to help get you going in the right direction.