The most important starting place for a healthy lifestyle, is healthy eating choices. It is no secret that the American stye of eating overly processed, convenience foods is leading to poorer and poorer health. Rather than choose a traditional “diet,” it’s important to adopt a healthier eating plan. I think it helps to think of your eating plan as a framework to build meals from, rather than a strict diet. One of these frameworks is the Mediterranean Diet.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
It is a primarily plant based diet; including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. The preferred form of protein is poultry and chicken and these should be consumed several times/week. Red meat may be consumed only a few times/month. Healthy fats such as olive oil and coconut oil should be used, instead of butter. Red wine is ok (in moderation of course).
What are the health benefits to the Mediterranean Diet?
It has been associated with reduced prevalence of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Diets high in fruits and vegetables provide essential antioxidants for fighting the toxins in today’s world. Diets low in red meat drastically reduce cholesterol. This dietary framework is excellent for anyone, but especially those who are at increased risk for heart disease.
How do I get started on the Mediterranean Diet?
A good starting place is to replace your cooking oils with the healthy choices listed above. When grocery shopping, choose several new fruits and vegetables. Strive to eat 5 fruits and vegetables each day that vary in color; the varying colors provide different vitamins and nutrients. Think of red meat as an occasional treat, rather than a staple in meals. Eat seafood several times/month. If you don’t like seafood, eat chicken and turkey. Nuts are also an excellent protein source.
In conclusion, the Mediterranean diet provides a great framework for healthy eating. It allows for creativity as you explore new fruits and vegetables. It is high in flavor with the use of spices and seasoning instead of salt. It does not eliminate foods, but rather, identifies less healthy options that should be limited to a few times per month. It even allows the consumption of wine with dinner.