THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET - DIETITIANS SAY IT'S THE #1 DIET PLAN
U.S. News & World Report ranked this mostly plant-based eating approach its No. 1 overall diet in 2019, and I’d have to agree although I’m not quite sure I’d call this a “diet” in the regular sense of the word. I’d call it simply intelligent eating.
The Mediterranean diet— which is rich in whole vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, legumes, and some red wine and dairy — in the most basic terms is just a balanced way of eating. The Mediterranean diet’s focus on choosing whole, plant-based foods while allowing for proteins like chicken and fish may make this diet one that’s easy to stick with.
Although it really wasn’t a cognitive decision, I’ve personally been following something very close to the Mediterranean Diet for the past several years mainly because I like the food and it makes sense from a health standpoint.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗲𝗮𝗻 𝗱𝗶𝗲𝘁 𝗲𝗺𝗽𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗶𝘇𝗲𝘀:
•Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
•Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
•Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
•Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
•Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
•Enjoying meals with family and friends
•Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
•Getting plenty of exercise
What makes this “diet” so easy to follow is that it really isn’t what we’re typically accustomed to with most diet plans. You won’t be counting calories or fat grams but portion control and healthy choices are the foundation of this plan.
𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗲𝗮𝘀𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗸 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵. A diet only works if it’s doable. That means everyone in your family can eat it and you can eat in this style no matter where you go (to a restaurant for dinner, to a family event). With its flavors and variety of foods that don’t cut out any food group, this is one such eating plan. This is a diet you can easily stay on for a lifetime.
𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲. It’s evident that with such a variety of whole, fresh foods available to you as options, it’s easy to build meals based on the diet. And, you don’t have to eliminate your favorites, either. They may just require some tweaks. For instance, rather than a sausage and pepperoni pizza, you’d choose one piled high with veggies and topped with some cheese. You can also fit in a lot of food into one meal. Filling up on fresh foods like fruits and vegetables will allow you to build volume into meals for fewer calories.
𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗹𝗼𝘄 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗳𝗮𝘁. You’re not going to feel hungry eating this way, because you can build in a variety of healthy fats. By limiting red or processed meats and relying heavily on monounsaturated fatty acids, like avocado, nuts, or olive oil, you’ll keep saturated fat levels low. These fats should help boost HDL cholesterol (the good kind) while lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind).
𝗜𝘁 𝗿𝗲𝗱𝘂𝗰𝗲𝘀 𝗿𝗶𝘀𝗸 𝗼𝗳 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲. A growing number of studies suggest that people who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to die of heart disease than people who follow a typical American diet. What’s more, evidence is emerging that shows people who eat this way have a lower risk of colon cancer, prostate cancer, and some head and neck cancers, according to studies published in September 2016 in the British Journal of Cancer and in February 2018 in the Journal of Urology.
𝗠𝗶𝗹𝗸 𝗶𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱. You may be put off if you’re big on drinking a lot of milk and rely on it to get all the calcium you need. You can eat cheese and yogurt, but in smaller amounts. Otherwise, nondairy calcium sources include fortified almond milk, sardines, kale, and tofu made with calcium sulfate.
𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗮𝗽 𝗮𝗹𝗰𝗼𝗵𝗼𝗹. The hallmark of a Mediterranean diet is that drinking red wine socially is thought to be one reason why the diet is so healthy. But women should still stick to one glass, and men two glasses. If you have a history of breast cancer in the family, know that any alcohol consumption raises that risk. In that case, talk to your doctor to find out what’s right for you.
𝗙𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝘂𝗻𝗹𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗲𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿. As with wine, it's possible to get too much of a good thing when it comes to healthy fats. The American Heart Association points out that while the Mediterranean diet meets heart-healthy diet limits for saturated fat, your total fat consumption could be greater than the daily recommended amount of 65 grams if you aren't careful.
𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗼𝗼𝗸. While you don’t have to spend hours in your kitchen, you will need to cook because the diet is all about working with delicious fresh food. You may have a learning curve as you build these skills. Fortunately for those of us that live in metro-Detroit, Lebanese and Greek restaurants are practically everywhere making it relatively easy to eat out while following the diet.
The Mediterranean Diet is one I can enthusiastically recommend. This diet really isn’t a diet but more a reprogramming of healthier food choices and a shift toward clean eating. The only food groups that are restricted with this diet are red meat and processed meats like bacon, sausage and lunch meats and saturated fats like butter which should be restricted for everyone seeking a healthy lifestyle anyway. To be successful with this diet you’ll have to control portion size and, of course, exercise regularly. Counting calories is not explicitly part of the Mediterranean diet although if you’re on it for weight loss, you’ll have to be mindful of your daily net caloric intake (net meaning calories in vs calories expended).
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