The Mediterranean diet is one style of eating that has proven its validity and benefits study after study. The Mediterranean diet is one of the most studied diets in modern nutrition and it’s health benefits appear to stretch across all populations and health concerns.
One of the biggest questions I get asked by clients is what is the best diet to eat. Firstly I don’t like to encourage people to assign themselves to one particular diet and feel that they have to a there to this, otherwise they are failing. I am all about eating what is intuitively right for your body type. As much as people say that they love junk foods and processed foods, I find it hard to believe that if these people stopped and listened to their bodies, they would know that these types of foods are not what their bodies are asking for.
Having said that, I am going to give you the rundown on the Mediterranean diet so that you can see why it is so good for you, and how you can take inspiration from it. Over the next few blog posts, I will also give my opinion on other ‘diets’ and why they are beneficial. From this, you can really pick and choose what style of eating appeals to you most and be confident that you are eating for optimal health.
The Mediterranean diet draws upon the culinary practices of southern Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Middle East, all areas where food is prepared to be savoured and enjoyed, not rushed. Taking the time to sit and eat with family and friends is considered to be just as important as the food.
Researchers found that people eating a Mediterranean diet were exceptionally healthy and had a low risk of many lifestyle diseases. The Mediterranean diet can cause weight loss and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes and premature death. Recent studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to gut health as it supports beneficial bacteria and reduces inflammation.
There is no one right way to follow the Mediterranean diet, as there are many countries around the Mediterranean sea and people in different areas may have eaten different foods.
The diet is primarily plant-based with small portions of healthy proteins and fats. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and herbs make up the foundation of this diet’s “pyramid,” and every meal is centred around them. Fish is eaten at least twice a week, while poultry, eggs, and dairy are eaten less often, perhaps just a few days a week. Meats and sweets are eaten in moderation. Healthy fats, like olive oil, should be used in place of others, like butter and vegetable oil. And red wine can even be enjoyed in moderate amounts.
The Mediterranean diet is not only good for your health, but it is also good for the plants. The reduction in animal-based foods reduce our environmental footprint, and, food is more likely to be locally sourced and eaten in season. By doing this, food transportation is reduced and local farmers are supported.
Eat These Foods
- Eat Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, bread, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
- Eat-in moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese and yoghurt.
- Eat only rarely: Red meat.
- Don’t eat Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods.
Avoid These Foods
- Added sugar: Soda, candies, ice cream, table sugar and many others.
- Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.
- Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods.
- Refined oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others.
- Processed meat: Processed sausages, hot dogs, etc.
- Highly processed foods: Anything labelled “low-fat” or “diet” or which looks like it was made in a factory.
What to Drink
- Water always should be your main beverage of choice. Choose from spring or sparkling water. Flavour it up with some lemon wedges and fresh mint.
- Red wine is a big feature of this diet, with 1 glass a day being enjoyed for its potent antioxidant content.
- Tea and coffee are also drunk but generally taken black, with no milk or sugar.
A simple menu plan for a day might look something like this –
Breakfast – Oats with fresh berries and Goat’s milk yoghurt. Black coffee
Lunch – Fresh salad with seasonal produce, topped with Feta, sunflower seeds and olive oil dressing. Slice of crusty sourdough bread.
Dinner – Chicken cacciatoire served on a bed of quinoa.
Snacks – 1 piece of fresh seasonal fruit, 1/4 cup nuts or olives.
Lamb Kofta with Zucchini Spirals
Crispy Chickpea Salad
Warm Zucchini and Tuna Salad
Green Goji Salad