The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is a widely studied 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 follow similar principles.

The documented benefits of eating a Mediterranean style diet are endless and include:

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

It may be surprising to hear that this diet includes lots of carbohydrates such as breads, cereals and pasta. BUT – 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.  Dairy is advised daily or weekly including cheese (in moderation). Dairy foods chosen should be lower in fat and cholesterol. 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, i.e. nuts, seeds and olive oil. These good fats help increase HDL or “good cholesterol“. However, being a fat, nuts are high in calories and therefore should be limited to no more than a handful a day.

Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that 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.

Optionally, the Mediterranean diet incorporates small amounts of alcohol, usually red wine, limited to about 4 oz. daily or less.  Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to other health problems AND to weight gain 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!

Quick tips on how to incorporate the Mediterranean diet and living:

Author
Dr. Adrienne Youdim

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