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A Closer Look at the Mediterranean Diet

• Written by Josh

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As we all know, a balanced diet is an enormous part of any healthy lifestyle. With so many different diet plans around, it can be a challenge to find the right one for you. Today we're taking a look at the Mediterranean Diet.

This is a diet which incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people who live in countries which border the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain. Studies have shown that taking part in this diet can have a positive impact on your health, lowering the risk of several medical conditions.

We recently looked at the DASH Diet, today's blog post focuses on the Mediterranean Diet and how it can help you achieve your health and well-being goals.

Mediterranean Diet?

As mentioned, the Mediterranean Diet has been inspired by the eating habits from countries which border the Mediterranean Sea. Specifically, it looks at the eating patterns of those who lived there during the 40s, 50s and 60s.

The diet varies by country and region, however the main components include:

  • Vegetables.
  • Fruit.
  • Whole grain.
  • Legumes.
  • Fish.
  • Nuts.
  • Poultry.
  • Unrefined cereal.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Rather than watching calories and starving yourself, the Mediterranean Diet focuses on lifestyle choices and consumption levels. Speaking about the diet, a spokesman for NHS England said:

The Mediterranean diet has been linked with good health, including a healthier heart. You can make your diet more Mediterranean-style by eating plenty of starchy foods, such as bread and pasta, with plenty of fruit and vegetables. In addition, include fish in your diet, less meat and choose products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil.”

What's appealing about this diet is that it proves you can still enjoy tasty, flavourful food whilst losing weight in the process. The diet can be summarised in the official Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, which can be seen below.

Health Benefits

The diet has been heavily linked with good health and a healthier heart for years now. New research carried out by British researchers suggests that it can also reduce the risk of frailty in older people. As a result, it also cuts the chances of depression and falls.

The research suggested that those who follow the Mediterranean Diet, which is based primarily on plant-based foods - such as fruits and veg - were "overall less than half as likely to become frail over a nearly four-year period," compared with those who didn't follow it.

There have been multiple studies and research over the last few years, investigating the health effects of following a the Mediterranean Diet. They reveal that following a healthy lifestyle which includes this diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer and cognitive ability.

Of course, losing weight through a healthier lifestyle will have its own positives. Being at a healthy weight reduces the amount of pressure on your heart and other vital organs. So many medical conditions, can be caused by being overweight and eating junk food.

Getting the Best Results

In order to see the best results physically, you'll need to take part in a regular exercise regime alongside your diet. Portion sizes are also important if you are to crack the Mediterranean Diet. Remember the following in order to see results:

  • High intakes of vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grain cereals, nuts and legumes.
  • Moderate intakes of fish, seafood, poultry, diary products such as cheese and yogurt, and red wine.
  • Low intakes of eggs, raw meat, processed meat and sweets.

The Eating Well website provides some interesting tips on how to follow the Mediterranean Diet, such as ensuring that you make the switch from vegetable or coconut oil to extra virgin olive oil.

Rather than snacking on sweets or crisps, you should try nuts instead. Examples included within the diet include almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Nuts also contain more fiber and minerals, such as potassium, than processed snack foods.

One little bit of information included within the diet is that red wine is an option. We must stress that this should be kept to a minimum, especially if you're trying to cut down or give-up alcohol. If you wish to include a little bit of red wine in your diet, we advise doing so alongside a nice big meal.

Example Eating Plan

The idea behind the diet is quite a simple one: Fill your plates with tasty vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, fish and whole grains. Eating Well have provided the following seven-day dinner plan as an example:

  • Day One - Coriander and lemon-crusted salmon with asparagus salad and poached egg.
  • Day Two - Grilled polenta and vegetables with lemon-caper vinaigrette.
  • Day Three - Italian pesto chicken salad.
  • Day Four - Cauliflower, pancetta and olive spaghetti.
  • Day Five - Garlic, sausage and kale naan pizzas.
  • Day Six - Sugar snap pea salad.
  • Day Seven - Grilled pork loin with white bean puree and lemon herb vinaigrette.

An example breakfast given on the same website would be a Greek Omelet, followed by a Fattoush Salad which includes classic Middle Eastern flavours. For snacks you should aim to eat fruit and a small handful of nuts.

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