Mediterreanean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is more than a diet, it is a way of life. Instead of focusing on what you cannot have, it focuses on what you can have — the very best, freshest, healthiest foods.

Research supports the health boosting qualities of the Mediterranean diet. This way of life can significantly decrease body weight, blood pressure, blood fats, blood sugar and insulin levels — health benefits that contribute to a longer life expectancy than that of people who follow a Western diet.

Basic ingredients of the mediterranean diet

Fresh, healthy food

The staples of the Mediterranean diet include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, seafood, yogurt, olive oil, and small amounts of wine.

Healthy fats

found in olive oil, nuts, avocados and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout; and fat from plant sources, like flaxseed and chia seeds.

Whole grains

Whole grain foods like bread, pasta, millet, quinoa, brown rice, and couscous are a key part of the Mediterranean diet. In their natural state, grains are full of cancer and heart disease-fighting fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Whole grains provide energy and calories with little fat.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Found in abundance in the Mediterranean diet, omega-3 fatty acids are bursting with health benefits. Fatty acids have been shown to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, blood clots, hypertension, and strokes; and may prevent certain forms of cancer and lower the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

More vegetables, less meat

A diet higher in plant foods and lower in animal products has been linked to decreased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and many cancers. The traditional Mediterranean diet is practically vegetarian, with lots of fish and very little meat. As for vegetables, Mediterranean people feast on tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, capers, spinach, eggplant, mushrooms, white beans, lentils, and chick peas.

Wine

Many Mediterranean people drink a glass or two of wine each night with dinner. But portions are small, generally about three ounces. When taken in small amounts, wine has been linked to lower rates of heart disease, likely due to the presence of antioxidants like transresveratrol and oligomeric proanthocyanidin, which keep blood circulation healthy and prevent blood clots from forming.

Olive oil

The Mediterranean people use olive oil in almost everything they eat, including pastas, breads, vegetables, salads, and fish. It is the principal fat in the Mediterranean diet, instead of butter or margarine. Olive oil may reduce inflammation, which could prevent heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, as well as certain cancers.

Portion control

The Mediterranean diet focuses on small portions of high-quality food. Healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, are staples of the Mediterranean diet and keep you feeling fuller longer.

Fruit for dessert

For Mediterranean people, fresh fruit is the typical daily dessert. Taking advantage of fruit’s natural sweetness has double benefits. First, what you gain: the fiber and nutrients in fruits like apples, grapes, and oranges. What you lose: the added sugar, calories, chemicals, and unhealthy fats in sweet, processed desserts.

In addition to eating healthy meals, the Mediterranean people spend a great deal of time walking. When you can, include exercise, laughter, and spending time with loved ones in your day.

Nuts and Seeds

Researchers have found that people who eat nuts regularly have lower risks of heart disease.

Nuts are one of the best plant sources of protein. They are rich in fiber phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium. Nuts and seeds are also high in plant sterols and fat – but mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3-the good fats) which have all been shown to improve total cholesterol numbers.

Nuts and seeds both fall into the “super immunity food” category, with a number of health benefits associated with adding these to one’s daily intake. Snacking on seeds is also a very healthy nutritious alternative to eating empty calorie foods such as chocolate and chips, while adding seeds or nuts to a salad or a bowl of yogurt is a simple way to boost immunity.

Although nuts and seeds are high in calories, so are often shunned by dieters, the good news is that one does not need to consume many to receive nutritional benefits. Simply eating a handful of nuts and seeds a day will provides a whole range of goodness, without piling on the pounds.

Key health benefits associated with consuming nuts and seeds

  • Help reduce fatigue
  • Decrease feelings of irritability
  • Reduce insomnia problems
  • Improve asthma
  • Lower risk of heart attack by 15% by lowering cholesterol
  • Provide essential mineral-magnesium
  • Reduce constipation and kidney stones
  • Boost immune system
  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acid
  • Provide essential vitamin C
  • Contain plenty of antioxidants

As highlighted above, both nuts and seeds are super immunity foods, which help boost the immune system, reduce fatigue and heart problems. Walnuts help lower the risk of suffering from anxiety and depression while almonds contain biotin for healthy hair and skin, with pistachios reducing constipation by providing plenty of fiber. Eating flax seeds help lower cholesterol and treat menopausal symptom.

The best approach is to reap the health benefits of eating nuts but not add excessive calories to your daily intake. So instead of simply adding nuts to your diet, eat them in replacement of foods that are high in saturated fats and limit your intake of these tasty treats to 1 to 2 oz per day. For instance, instead of adding chocolate chips when making cookies, sprinkle on some raw nuts. Or instead of making a deli meat sandwich, try a nut butter sandwich. Nuts are most beneficial and nutritious in their raw, natural state.

Examples of nuts of seeds

  • Pistachio
  • Almond
  • Walnut
  • Brazil
  • Cashew
  • Filbert
  • Pecan
  • Hazel
  • Macadamia
  • Pine Nuts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax
  • Sunflower
  • Pumpkin Seeds

Soy, Rice, and Almond Milk

Whether you are trying to lose weight, are lactose intolerant, or allergic to dairy, you may want to consider an alternative to milk. Below you will find information on some of my favorite milk substitutes.

Soy milk

Soy milk contains powerful antioxidants that help fight disease and aging. They have been found to increase bone density and strengthen the immune system. Adequate soy protein has been proven to improve your total cholesterol numbers and can be effective in preventing heart disease. Natural soy isoflavones help menopausal symptoms for women, and soy promotes good prostate health for men. Soy milk is rich in protein, and contains soluble fiber. In addition to being cholesterol-free, studies have shown that a diet including soymilk actually helps lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, while leaving HDL (good) cholesterol unaffected! Soy milk contains a host of helpful isoflavones, one of which is called genistein. Studies show that this valuable phytoestrogen actually suppresses the growth of cancer cells. Soy is the only commonly consumed ingredient that contains genistein.

Rice milk

Rice milk is low in cholesterol, which makes it a wise alternative food choice to other products with high amount of cholesterol. It is also an acceptable diet by vegetarians and people trying to lose weight, as it is free from “bad” fats responsible for weight gain. Since rice milk is free from lactose, it is suitable for people with lactose intolerance. It contains trace amounts of protein, but has a significant amount of essential vitamins and carbohydrates. Additionally, it is lower in cholesterol therefore is beneficial to patients suffering from heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. Rice milk is low in calories and can form a great nutritional plan for those trying to lose weight. If you are seeking effective ways to shed few pounds fast, add rice milk into your diet and reap its benefits. It is one of the healthiest food choices as it is a great source of vitamin E and magnesium, as well as manganese, and selenium. Rice milk is also rich in flavonoids which help improve cardiovascular health, providing protection from heart disease and stroke. Moreover, studies have shown that it is free from growth hormones and antibiotics. Rice milk is high in essential minerals, including magnesium and selenium, which are proven to enhance function of the immune system, providing protection from diseases and viral infections. Excessive consumption of rice milk is not safe for diabetics, and may also cause allergies. Therefore, you need to moderate your intake.

Almond milk

Almond milk is composed of more nutrients in comparison with other dairy milk substitutes such as rice milk or soy milk. Almond milk is a good substitute for people lactose and soy allergies. It is filled with minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. This particular milk does not have any cholesterol and it contains sodium in low amounts. Almond milk lowers the likelihood of increasing bad levels of cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. The potassium content, which is about 150 grams per serving, helps to encourage normal levels of blood pressure as well.

Almond milk is basically a kind of plant-based milk, which makes it lactose free. This allows those people who have lactose allergies to receive calcium and other minerals and vitamins without unpleasant side effects such as stomach cramps, diarrhea and bloating that are linked to consuming cow’s milk. In addition, most manufacturers of almond milk usually enhance their produces with extra calcium. This milk is free of the growth hormones present in whole milk, making it useful in baking rather than regular milk. Individuals suffering from diabetes can benefit considerably from consuming almond milk, as it contains only seven grams of carbs in each serving. This low carbohydrate content has a limited effect on the levels of blood sugar. When you eat simple sugars, the metabolic functions usually miss the essential nutrients, storing both fat and carbs. Sugars found in almond milk are low glycemic in nature, meaning that they are fully digested and used as energy and thus benefits diabetics.

The disadvantages of soy, rice, and almond milk are that they cannot be utilized as a replacement for breast milk since they do not provide the adequate nutrition required by a baby.