How to Go to Mediterranean Diet and Why!

The Mediterranean Diet is a dietary pattern that is inspired by the Mediterranean countries of Greece, Spain and Southern Italy. There is no one Mediterranean diet but instead a pattern of eating that follows similar principles.

The basis of the Mediterranean diet pyramid is fruits, vegetables and grains. Typically 6-8 servings (cupfuls) of fruits and vegetables daily. By choosing different types and colors you can be sure to get the most varied vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (ie the most complete nutrition).

It may be surprising to hear that this diet incorporates breads, cereals and pasta. The difference being that – unlike the typical American diet – these carbs are whole and unprocessed or minimally processed. Beans, grains and legumes make up the rest of the healthy carbs.

The Mediterranean diet promotes fish, poultry and eggs in place of red meat which should be consumed once a month. On the other hand, 2-3 servings of fish is recommended weekly. High fat dairy should be replaced by non fat dairy or low fat cheeses. Typically soft cheeses such as feta have less saturated fat as compared to hard cheeses such as jack, cheddar or colby.

Also, the Mediterranean diet encourages liberal amounts of good fats ie nuts, seeds and olive oil to replace butter or margarine. Nuts help increase HDL or “good cholesterol,” but being a fat, nuts are high in calories and therefore should be limited to no more than a handful a day. Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat also increases HDL and can reduce LDL (bad cholesterol). Choosing extra virgin means that it is minimally processed and so it retains it’s antioxidants and plant based nutrients.

Last but not least, the Mediterranean diet incorporates small amounts of alcohol, usually red wine, limited to about 5 oz daily. Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to other health problems so the key is modest intake.

Implicit in this lifestyle is movement! The Mediterranean lifestyle includes lots of activity, work related activities and leisure activity. So don’t forget to get moving. Not an athlete? No problem. Start with walking 20-30 minutes a day.

Dr. Adrienne Youdim

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