The Mediterranean Diet: An Intro from Italy

 

Enrico Forte, an Italian dietitian, has joined us today to talk about the many benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Stop by again on Thursday for a roundup of our favorite Mediterranean recipes!

The Mediterranean diet plan is a combination of the traditional cooking styles of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea -- from Spain to the Middle East.

An increasing number of researchers continue to demonstrate that eating a diet rich in plant foods and "good" fats protects against cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Follow a Mediterranean-Style Diet

  1. Eat mostly plant foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
  2. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains. For example, eat brown rice instead of white rice.
  3. Make legumes, fish, poultry, and nuts your primary sources of protein.
  4. Replace butter with olive oil, especially when cooking.
  5. Use herbs and spices to flavor foods instead of salt.
  6. Limit servings of red meat to 1-2 times per month.
  7. Limit servings of cheese and milk to 2-3 times per week.
  8. Drink red wine (optional).

What Foods Should I Choose?

The Mediterranean diet includes...

  • Fresh fruits like apples, strawberries, apricots, peaches, and kiwis.
  • Vegetables like zucchini, eggplants, spinach, peppers, sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. Try fresh or frozen options.
  • Whole wheat grain foods like bread, pasta, pita, pizza, and brown rice.
  • Have that bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), but not with margarine or butter. Margarine and butter contain too many saturated and/or trans fats to fit into this diet model.
  • The primary source of fat in the Mediterranean is extra virgin olive oil. It provides monounsaturated fat, which helps lower LDL cholesterol (aka "bad" cholesterol) and contains the highest levels of antioxidants. Research indicates that a diet rich in olive oil could play a role in the prevention of osteoporosis, heart disease, and some types of cancer.
  • Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, are high in healthful fats. Fatty fish like mackerel, sardines, tuna, and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • The Mediterranean diet includes a moderate amount of red wine. Men can drink 2 glasses per day while women can have 1 glass per day.

Sample Mediterranean Diet Menu:

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt topped with berries and walnuts, coffee or tea
  • Lunch: Lentil soup with swish chard topped with tzatziki sauce, hummus and whole grain pita bread on the side
  • Snack: Whole grain crackers and cheese
  • Dinner: Roasted cod paired with a wheat berry salad (cooked wheat berries with olive oil vinaigrette, feta, parsley, and tomatoes) and a glass of red wine
  • Dessert: Fresh fruit drizzled with honey

Enrico Forte writes for http://www.mediterraneanbook.com/, a blog that helps people help people learn how to follow the Mediterranean diet with a free e-book filled with Mediterranean recipes.

References:

Willett, Walter C., et al. "Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating." The American journal of clinical nutrition 61.6 (1995): 1402S-1406S.

Trichopoulou, Antonia, et al. "Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and survival in a Greek population." New England Journal of Medicine 348.26 (2003): 2599-2608.

Trichopoulou, Antonia, et al. "Energy intake and monounsaturated fat in relation to bone mineral density among women and men in Greece." Preventive medicine 26.3 (1997): 395-400.

Hungry for more? Check back here on Thursday for a sneak peek into our collection of favorite Mediterranean recipes. In the meantime, why not look through the incredible nutrition resources in our Nutrition Education Store?

 

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