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This article was written on 03 Apr 2008, and is filled under Popular diets.

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Mediterranean Diet

According to the Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust, the Mediterranean Diet was introduced in 1993 by Oldways, Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization. It is based on the traditional foods eaten by people living in the Mediterranean region, especially Greece. This diet includes:

* olives and olive oil
* whole grains, mostly in bread and cereal rather than pasta
* very little red meat
* fish and seafood
* some cheese, but less milk
* lots of vegetables
* legumes and nuts
* red wine

People who live in this region of the Mediterranean tend to eat a diet high in fat, but they also have a much lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer than people in other parts of the world.

This is unusual, since most high-fat diets are correlated with a higher incidence of disease and death. This difference could be due to the use of olive oil rather than other types of fats. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that keeps your arteries healthy.

More than likely, though, the difference is due to the whole diet, not just the olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is also very high in fiber and antioxidants from vegetables, legumes and nuts — much higher than the typical Western diet — and low in saturated fat. Very little red meat is eaten in this region and milk consumption is limited as well, except for some cheese and yogurt.

How to Start a Mediterranean Diet

You don’t have to live in Greece to eat a diet that will help to keep you healthy. Oldways designed a Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid to help you see which foods are best. The base of the pyramid is made up of foods like whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, potatoes and rice. Fruits, legumes, nuts and vegetables make up another large share of your daily diet, along with smaller amounts of cheese, yogurt and olive oil. Poultry, fish and eggs are eaten weekly and red meats are only eaten about once per month. Oldways also suggests you drink six glasses of water every day, along with moderate consumption of red wine for some people. The Mediterranean pyramid even allows for one sweet treat every week.

You can follow this healthy food pyramid by using these tips to transform your diet into a Mediterranean type of diet:

Replace the oil you use now with olive oil. You probably don’t want to add more calories to you diet so use olive oil in place of butter, margarine and other salad dressing oils. Olive oil is good for cooking too. Don’t butter your bread, then dip it in olive oil.

Eat vegetables — lots of vegetables. This just can’t be stressed enough. Every healthy diet includes lots of vegetables. Many people in the Mediterranean eat a pound of vegetables every day. Green and colorful vegetables are low in calories and high in antioxidants. Prepare Greek vegetarian dishes several times each week.

Choose whole grains. Eliminate the refined white bread and pasta from your diet. Whole grains and cereals are high in fiber and delicious. Potatoes and polenta, which is made from corn meal, are also commonly used as starches in the Mediterranean.

Eat poultry and fish. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart and your brain so it may be one of the reasons this diet protects your health. Plus, fish is low in total fat and low in calories so it makes a great source of protein. Poultry and eggs are also acceptable protein sources. Bake or broil your fish or chicken, don’t deep fry them. Deep fried foods don’t fit into this diet at all.

Limit red meat to occasional consumption. Red meat has a lot of saturated fat that is bad for your heart so there isn’t much room for steaks and hamburgers in this diet, only about one meal per month. Instead of a greasy burger from a burger joint, make your own ground turkey burger on a whole grain bun instead. Add lettuce, a slice of avocado and tomato and you won’t miss the red meat.

Discover legumes and nuts. Legumes have lots of fiber, protein and nutrients and can be used in a main dish. Choose fava beans and other dry beans. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews make a delicious and healthy snack.

Enjoy fresh fruits as dessert. Avoid sugary pastries, cakes and cookies. Fruit is lower in calories and high in fiber and nutrients.

Yogurt and cheese are sources of calcium. Choose some low fat yogurt and cheese every day. You could make a yogurt dressing or try a healthy salad with tomatoes and feta cheese.

Drink water and wine. The Mediterranean pyramid includes six glasses of water every day and a glass or two of red wine. Water is good for everybody, but don’t drink red wine if you are pregnant, under-age or if drinking alcohol puts you or others at risk.
Mediterranean Recipes and Ideas

Switching from a typical western diet to a Mediterranean diet seem difficult if you are not used to olive oil, fish and some of the vegetables and seasons often used in Mediterranean cooking. Here are some tips and ideas for cooking delicious foods:

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