Healthy living is becoming a major trend nowadays due to the health hazards one may face with maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle. Some statistics suggest that certain conditions such as cancer, heart diseases and diabetes are influenced by life style and account for a significant number of deaths in USA. All these can be prevented or risk of them can be decreased with a healthier diet and lifestyle. With that in mind, people are resorting to adopting a number of different healthier diet methods. The one diet that a lot of people recognize as a healthier diet that prolongs life is the Mediterranean diet.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is not a commercial diet and this makes it difficult to give a single definition on what is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean Diet or Med diet in short, is the mixture of lifestyle habits, eating patterns and cooking techniques of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Basin. The Mediterranean dietary pattern has evolved over the years but the basic principles have remained the same. It is based on healthy eating and healthy living and thus introduces a lifestyle that is different from the modern western World. The Mediterranean diet lifestyle promotes the consumption of natural and non-processed foods, introduces a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables to the kitchen table, encourages the consumption of wine with your meals (in moderation) and supports a physically active lifestyle.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
The benefits of the Mediterranean diet are a lot and these are supported by research and many clinical studies carried out by various health organizations around the World.
Mediterranean diet for Weight loss: The Mediterranean diet was nominated among the best weight loss diets. A recent survey (Nov 2011) among 22 dieticians and health experts nominated Mediterranean Diet as one of the best overall diets. Their criteria were based on the healthiest and effectiveness of the diets for weight loss and Mediterranean diet was recognized as one of the diets that can generate results that last in a healthy way. It is superior than other low card diets simply because it is a way of life and not a torture you have to follow for a certain period. You can also read Mediterranean diet Vs Atkins diet and Mediterranean diet Vs South Beach Diet for more details.
A heart healthy diet: The Mediterranean diet is a synonym with a heart healthy diet. The food components proposed by the Mediterranean dietary pattern can prevent various cardiovascular diseases and enhance the functioning of the heart. Many studies have shown that following the Mediterranean diet lifestyle is an effective way to prevent CHD (coronary heart disease).
Cancer prevention and Longevity: Vitamins, antioxidants and other Mediterranean diet food components can play a proactive role against various types of cancer. There is strong evidence that they can prevent breast cancer, while many other studies have associated Med diet with longevity.
Other health benefits: Following the Mediterranean diet lifestyle can also control high pressure, help in lowering blood cholesterol act as a way to prevent Alzheimer and can reduce the risk of developing blindness. It is also a great way to avoid depression, diabetes and reduce your chances of getting asthma.
The Mediterranean Diet food pyramid
Many institutions present the Mediterranean diet food components in a pyramid style format. We have created the Mediterranean diet inverted food pyramid that gives emphasis on food items that should be consumed more (fruits and vegetables, olive oil and fish) and less emphasis to poultry, dairy products and meat. Items at the base of the pyramid are very important for healthy eating and these should form the basis of your meals while items towards the end of the pyramid are less important and should be taken in moderation. The Mediterranean diet food pyramid can be used as a guide on how to structure your meals for better health and weight loss. Following the Mediterranean diet meal structure together with a physically active lifestyle and minimizing stress is the key to wellbeing and longevity.
Mediterranean Diet Components
The major food components that make up the Mediterranean diet are:
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should be taken on a daily basis, at least 5-6 servings per day. You can eat your fresh fruits and vegetables as a main dish (e.g. Green Salad), side dish (e.g. vegetables to accompany our main meals) or snacks. Preference should be given to Fresh, seasonal fruits which are not processed.
Use Olive oil for cooking replacing margarine, butter and other types of oil. Olive oil can lower bad cholesterol and studies have associated the regular consumption of olive oil with a reduction in inflammation which in turn can help prevent various diseases.
Fish and seafood (tuna, salmon, trout, etc) in general should be taken 2-3 times per week. Eating fish instead of meat can also improve your mental health while at the same time you minimize the consumption of fat and calories. Prefer grilled fish instead of fried for even better results.
Nuts, Legumes and Whole Grains
Nuts such as almonds, cashews and walnuts can be taken as snacks replacing sweets. They are healthy, they act as ‘fat burners’ and can keep your stomach full and busy.
Legumes (peas, beans, lentils to name a few) and whole grains like bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice can give you the energy you need without loading your body with calories and fats. They are high in fiber, slow to digest and can give you the feeling of fullness for a longer time.
Poultry and Dairy Products (e.g. White Cheese, Yogurt)
Poultry (chicken, turkey, pigeons etc) should be taken twice a week in the place of red meat. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, white cheese, halloumi, feta, and peynir are part of the Mediterranean diet but they should be taken in moderation by giving preference to skimmed milk, zero fat yogurt and low fat cheese.
Herbs and Spices
Instead of salt you can use herbs and spices to give more taste to your meals. Spices (like basil, peppers, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaf, Thyme) can accelerate weight loss and are also good for your health.
Drink wine with your meals, in moderation. This is optional but drinking a class of wine per day can help blood circulation (due to antioxidants found in wine) and can minimize the chances of having a heart disease.
Besides the food components, the Mediterranean diet supports a lifestyle which encourages:
Social Interactions between people
Interacting with other people through gatherings and family meetings can minimize the levels of stress and give you nice break from day to day routine and hectic activities.
Exercise and Activity
Exercise and physical activity is an essential component of the Mediterranean lifestyle. You should exercise at least 2-3 times per week and engage into physical activities (e.g. walking) on a regular basis.
Mediterranean Diet Recipes
The Mediterranean diet Cuisine has a plethora of healthy and delicious recipes that can satisfy every need and taste. Our collection of healthy Mediterranean recipes includes practical and easy to follow recipes that expose the flavor, nutritional benefits and unique taste of the wonderful Mediterranean kitchen. There is a Mediterranean diet style recipe for every occasion that can replace your traditional meals and introduce you to the principles of healthy eating without sacrificing taste or quality.
Mediterranean recipes are based on the food components promoted by the diet but care is also taken on the preparation and cooking method. Olive oil is used very often to replace cooking oil while all other ingredients are based on natural foods thus avoiding the unnecessary consumption of fats, sugars and other harmful to your health substances.
Origins of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet originated from civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Countries like Spain, Italy, France, Malta, Greece and Cyprus have contributed with one way or another to the formation of the Mediterranean dietary pattern. UNESCO has recognized the benefits of Med diet and considers it to be an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Mediterranean diet got its name from the Mediterranean Sea and from the Greek word “Diaita” which means “a way of life”. The Mediterranean Diet has a rich history that evolved over the years reaching a point where it is recognized as one of the most popular diets in the World.