The Mediterranean diet is making news again all over the place. New research from three recent studies confirms what we thought – a Mediterranean-style diet is a healthy way to eat, because it can help reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and even help to preserve memory.
This past February the Spanish PREDIMED study, showed that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts and extra virgin olive oil resulted in a 30 percent reduced risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Next came a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham which found that healthy people (average age of 64) who ate a Mediterranean diet, were 19 percent less likely to develop problems with thinking and memory skills. Fast on the heels of that one, came a study just presented at an American Heart Association Scientific Session presented earlier this month. Researchers in Quebec studied men who were at higher risk for heart disease, and they determined that eating a Mediterranean diet resulted in a 9 percent decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol, regardless of any change in weight.
So there you have it – even more evidence that it’s beneficial for your health to eat like a Mediterranean. So what does that mean for you the next time you’re at the grocery store?
First off, we’re not talking about spaghetti and meatballs, or garlic bread here, so step away from that green can of parmesan cheese. The traditional Mediterranean–style diet, and the diet that was used in each of these studies, is rich in fruits and vegetables, and provides small servings of chicken, fish, or legumes for protein, and nuts, olives, and olive oil for fat. Compared to the typical American diet, it is very low in red meat, refined sugar (and starches in general), and includes only two servings of low-fat dairy foods each day.
Here’s how it breaks down:
|Vegetables||4-6 servings/day||1 serving is: ½ cup cooked or raw OR 1 cup salad greens|
|Fruit||3-5 servings/day||1 serving is 1 piece or ½ cup fresh fruit OR ¼ cup dried fruit|
|Whole Grains||4-7 servings/day||1 serving is 1 slice bread or ½ cup cereal, pasta or rice|
|Meat & Poultry||3 oz/day|
|Low Fat Dairy||2 servings/day||I serving is 8 oz low fat milk or yogurt OR 1 oz cheese|
|Desserts & Sweets||2 servings/day||1 serving is 1 small cookie OR 1 tsp sugar|
|Legumes||3 serving/day||1 serving is ½ cup cooked beans|
|Nuts||1 serving/day||1 serving is ¼ cup nuts|
|Olive oil or olives||2-4 servings/day||1 serving is 1 Tbs oil or 5 olives|
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating fresh, seasonal, whole foods, and limiting most processed foods. By eating this way, you will get the benefits of a diet that is rich in unsaturated and omega-3 fats, fiber, antioxidants, and potassium. It’s great for your heart, your body, your brain, and not to mention your taste buds! For additional information, and tips on how to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your kitchen, check out Oldways, and try this recipe for a Mediterranean chopped salad, which incorporates most of the above food groups into one dish.
Have you ever traveled to and eaten in any Mediterranean countries? Please share!
- 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Tbs red wine wine gar
- ⅛ tsp garlic powder
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 English (seedless) cucumber, cut into 4 quarters lengthwise, and then cut each quarter into small, bite sized pieces
- 2 hearts of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 -15 oz can chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ small red onion, sliced thin
- ½ cup pitted black kalamata olives
- 4 oz feta cheese, cut into cubes
- ¼ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
- Combine oilve oil, vinegar, and garlic powder in a small bowl and set aside.
- Combine all other ingredients except for pine nuts in a deep bowl. Toss well.
- Add olive oil and vinegar dressing and toss to coat.
- Divide salad onto 4 dinner sized plates.
- Sprinkle toasted pine nuts over each salad and serve immediately.