Did you know that there’s a simple, delicious diet that may help you live longer, whittle your waistline, keep your brain sharp, and slash your risk for chronic diseases?
More than 3,000 studies show that following a Mediterranean diet – the traditional cuisine found in Spain, Greece and Italy – may do that and more.
In fact, the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a Mediterranean-style diet as a balanced approach to eating that promotes health and prevents disease. Even if you live in Buffalo or Peoria—not Barcelona or Rome—you can enjoy the delicious foods of the Mediterranean and help boost your health.
You’ve likely heard of the Mediterranean diet, but what exactly is it?
It’s pattern of eating that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, and grains (including pasta), with moderate consumption of fish, poultry, dairy and eggs, and generally low consumption of red meat and sweets.
Here are 6 easy ways to make your diet more Mediterranean:
Enjoy More Plant-Based Foods
Start by eating five or more servings per day of produce and planning a meatless meal, like a pasta primavera, at least one night a week. Begin most meals with a salad or tomato-based soup and end your meals with fresh fruit or fruit-based desserts like baked apples or a berry crumble.
Enjoy Bread … and Pasta!
The Mediterranean-style of eating is not low in carbs—and the people of the Mediterranean have some of the lowest rates of obesity in the world! This is because those in the region enjoy quality carbohydrate choices, including complex carbohydrates like bread and pasta as well as whole grains like oats and couscous. In fact, bread is a staple of the region, and traditional semolina pasta is the primary source of carbs in Italy, where obesity rates are among the lowest in Europe.
Turn to the Sea(food)
Fish and seafood provide plenty of heart-and brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. In the Mediterranean region, people generally eat fish and seafood at least three times a week, while Americans eat a fish meal about once a week. A good rule is to swap out beef or other red meat for fish or seafood at least twice a week.
Savor Healthy Oils and Other Good Fats
While the Mediterranean diet is not low in fat, it is low in unhealthy saturated fats like those present in whole-fat dairy and red meats. In fact, a recent study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that replacing just 5 percent of calories from saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 25 percent. (That same replacement with monounsaturated fat provided a reduction of risk by some 15 percent.) Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats include sunflower oil, walnuts, and fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and trout. Monounsaturated fats are common in olive oil and canola oil.
The Mediterranean diet includes moderate amounts of red wine – which is equal to about one glass per day for women and two for men. Studies have shown that drinking red wine in moderation can be part of a heart healthy diet. If you don’t drink alcohol, there’s good news. The dark purple Concord grape used in 100% grape juice provides beneficial plant nutrients called polyphenols. In fact, 100% grape juice delivers many of the same polyphenols and heart-health benefits as red wine.
Limit Sweets and Treats
I’d love to tell you that the Mediterranean diet has room for American-style indulgences—but that isn’t the case. The traditional diet of the Greeks and Spaniards rarely includes candy, baked goods, fried foods, soda, or other sugar-sweetened beverages. The Mediterranean diet is actually low in added sugars, which is one reason why it’s considered so beneficial for your health.