Most likely you’ve heard a little something about the Mediterranean Diet over the last few years. You may have heard that eating Mediterranean style can be good for weight loss or that it can improve heart health. The most recent research shows that the Mediterranean diet could cut heart disease risk by nearly half! Studies have even indicated it can help keep our brains healthier longer. All of that and a glass of wine? Sign us up!
The best part is that the Mediterranean diet isn’t just a short-term, fad diet.
The reality is that it’s a LIFESTYLE and not just another DIET – and it’s loaded with great food, healthy habits and lots of benefits for both body and brain. It also happens to match up pretty closely to the MyPlate recommendations and general diet advice given by dietitians the world over. So if you’re ready to get off the diet rollercoaster and take advantage of a host of health benefits, here are the basics of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle to get you started:
- Step 1: Make plant-based foods the heart of your diet – Vegetables are a must for almost every meal; fruit is recommended for dessert, nuts and seeds for snacks, legumes as main dishes, and whole grains in a variety of applications. Not only are plant-based foods budget-friendly, but they’re also high in fiber and nutrients and generally lower in calories and saturated fats.
- Step 2: Add flavor and variety with lean proteins – Lean proteins make up a relatively smaller part of the Mediterranean diet – they are generally included a few times a week. The high amounts of seafood in the Mediterranean diet (as well as some of the healthy fats the diet is known for) mean added omega 3s, which have been linked to both heart health and brain health.
- Step 3: Create a standard for whole foods – Packaged and processed foods and ingredients are generally absent in the Mediterranean diet. This often means less sodium and sugar (among other ingredients) and fresher, more diet-friendly ingredients that can keep blood sugar steady and hunger at bay.
- Step 4: Make moderation your mantra – This isn’t a restrictive fad diet, so when on the Mediterranean diet, you may stop cutting foods and food groups out of your weekly menus. This diet embraces foods like cheese, meat, eggs, sweets and wine – only in smaller amounts to savor and enjoy. So have that occasional lamb or steak, pick up some baklava at the local Greek festival and don’t be afraid of that rich cabernet calling out from the wine rack.
- Step 5: Move more every day– However you like to move, make sure it’s a part of your daily routine. Traditionally, the Mediterranean culture is a walking one and for good reason. Not only are the views of the Mediterranean inspiring, but walking and exercise, in general, have been shown to boost energy, mood and overall health.
Gradually making changes to your diet and lifestyle by incorporating some of these key elements of a Mediterranean Diet is a great way to start seeing some health benefits now and into the future. For a more detailed overview, take a look at this Mediterranean diet pyramid from Oldways.