Mediterranean Diet Review
The Mediterranean Diet is one of the world’s most popular diets – and not just around the Mediterranean Sea.
With a focus on olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and seafood, the Mediterranean Diet is not only healthy: it’s also really tasty!
Why does everyone seem to rave about the Mediterranean Diet? What kind of health benefits does it offer? Can you really lose weight by eating more olive oil? Today, in our Mediterranean diet review, we’re going to answer all of the questions you have about the Mediterranean diet and its benefits.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Simply speaking, the Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of people who live around the northern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, Greece, and France.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the few diets in the world to be classified as an official piece of UNESCO heritage: at the 2013 annual meeting of UNESCO, the organization recognized the Mediterranean diet as a piece of “Intangible Cultural Heritage” in all of the following countries: Italy, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Greece, Cyprus, and Croatia.
Contrary to what some people believe, the Mediterranean diet isn’t the diet of choice around the entire Mediterranean. Those who live in northern Italy, for example, typically don’t consume much olive oil or seafood. In North Africa, sheep is commonly used for its meat, rendered butter, and fats.
Of course, Portugal doesn’t even have a Mediterranean coastline and it’s still on the list of Mediterranean diet countries.
General Principles of the Mediterranean Diet
Despite its geographic variety, all Mediterranean diet countries agree with the central aspects of the diet, which involve consuming proportionally high amounts of olive oil, legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, and cheese.
Oh, and did I mention that the Mediterranean diet is one of the few diets that actually encourages the consumption of wine?
Here are some of the general rules and principles of the Mediterranean diet:
— Maximize your daily intake of vegetables, peas, beans (legumes), fruits, and whole grain cereals
— Limit your consumption of red meat and eat fish and poultry instead
— Replace butter, lard, and animal fats with mono-unsaturated olive oil or rapeseed oil wherever possible
— Eat a moderate amount of dairy products, preferably low-fat dairy yogurts and cheeses
— Avoid fast food, highly-proceed foods, and ready-to-eat meals which contain high levels of saturated fat and sodium
— Avoid adding salt to any food when cooking
— Eat dried fruits and nuts as snacks between meals
— You can drink wine during meals, but limit your consumption. Men should have no more than three small glasses of red wine per day, while women should have two small glasses per day.
— Replace sugary drinks, diet sodas, and other unhealthy beverages with water wherever possible
Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
If you can follow all of the rules listed above, you may be able to enjoy some powerful health benefits. Below, you’ll find some of the most common health benefits of the Mediterranean diet:
Reduced Risk Of Heart Disease, Cancer, And Bowel Problems
The vegetables and fruits in the Mediterranean diet are responsible for many powerful benefits. They’re high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C, all of which can lead to the benefits listed above. Wholegrain cereals like wheat, barley, corn, and brown rice can also reduce the risk of bowel problems and cancer. By swapping out red meat for seafood, you can also reduce the risk of heart disease and heartbeat irregularities.
Switching out regular grains for whole grains can reduce levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol within the blood, which also reduces your risk of heart disease. Peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes are also rich with proteins, vitamin B, and vitamin C and can reduce your risk of bad cholesterol even further.
Eating lean white meat – like chicken and white fish – is a great way to get protein. Your body needs protein to build muscles, repair tissue, and facilitate neurotransmission in the brain. Best of all, you’re getting this protein without the high fat and cholesterol levels of red meat.
Reduced Risk Of Diabetes
Nuts and seeds are healthy ways to snack during the day. They’re rich with proteins, fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Nuts and seeds can reduce the risk of diabetes when taken in moderate amounts. This benefit is particularly powerful if you’re switching out cakes and cookies and replacing them with nuts and seeds.
Ultimately, the Mediterranean diet is one of those powerful “all-encompassing” diets which has a diverse range of health benefits. These health benefits have been shown to significantly reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other physiological problems.
Mediterranean Diet Foods and Meals
Many people who follow the Mediterranean diet get their protein primarily from fatty fish like salmon and sardines, both of which are rich with omega-3 fatty acids. You can also mix it up with shrimp and shellfish. Aim to have seafood 2 to 4 nights per week. On other nights, eat skinless poultry. You can also eat lean beef, veal, or lamb, but limit consumption to 2-3 times per month.
Fruits and Vegetables
There are far too many good Mediterranean diet fruits and vegetables to list here. Dieticians often recommend picking vegetables which are deep red, green, yellow, or orange in color, which typically means they’re rich with antioxidants and beta-carotene, among other valuable nutrients. Sweet and white potatoes and other starchy vegetables are also popular.
Oils and Healthy Fats
Olive oil, canola oil, olives, seeds, and nuts are some of the healthiest natural sources of fat. Following the Mediterranean diet typically means getting 25% to 35% of your daily calories from fat, although saturated fat should only be 8% or less of those calories.
Mediterranean dieters enjoy dairy products like yogurt and cheese. If weight loss is your goal, then buy low-fat yogurt or cheese. If you want to totally eliminate dairy from your diet (or you’re vegan), consider buying soy dairy substitutes to get your recommended daily amount of vitamin D: soy cheese, soy yogurt, and low fat soymilk are all acceptable replacements.
Red wine can be used in cooking. It’s also perfectly fine to enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. In fact, red wine has actually been scientifically proven to complement the Mediterranean diet!
Studies have shown that olive oil, leafy green vegetables, and red wine work together to neutralize unstable oxygen molecules – better known as free radicals. Free radicals are associated with physical and mental aging and are also responsible for disease and illness throughout the body.
Use Spices and Herbs
One of the most important rules of the Mediterranean diet is to avoid adding extra salt to your meals. Most foods already have salt in them, and adding extra salt can have dangerous effects on your health. Replace salt with herbs and spices. Cumin, basil, cloves, garlic, thyme, pepper, oregano, mint, and parsley are all popular with Mediterranean dieters.
Conclusion: Who Should Take the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is one of the easiest diets in the world to follow. You get to eat great food: but you also get to enjoy awesome health benefits. Key benefits include weight loss, better cardiovascular health, and lower cholesterol levels.
It’s also easy to shop for Mediterranean diet ingredients. You can even follow the Mediterranean diet if you’re vegetarian (stick with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts) or vegan (avoid the dairy products).
High in healthy fats, low in sodium, and packed with delicious flavors (and red wine!), the Mediterranean diet is one of the world’s most-followed diets for a reason.