By Kristin M. MacDonald, MS, RD, LDN
Owner, Healthy Appetites Nutrition Counseling, L.L.C.
The Mediterranean diet is based on traditions of the people from the Greek island of Crete, as well as the eating patterns of Italian, Turkish, Moroccan and Spanish cultures, among others. The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been studied and it is considered the gold standard of healthy eating by many.
Most experts agree that healthy eating includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, healthy fats, and legumes, such as beans and nuts. The Mediterranean diet includes all of these and discourages less healthy, highly processed foods.
Olive oil, a source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, is the primary fat used in the Mediterranean diet. Less emphasis is placed on butter and margarine, keeping saturated fat low. Intake of unsaturated fat is fairly liberal.
In the Mediterranean diet, focus is placed on eating a variety of plant-based foods, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Animal-based foods take a supporting role and are used more as a garnish to add flavor and variety to plates. Lean proteins, such as chicken and fish, are encouraged over beef. Seafood should be eaten at least twice per week. Up to four eggs can be eaten each wekk. Cheese and dairy products are eaten in a low to moderate amounts.
Sugary and processed foods are limited, and fresh fruits are encouraged for dessert.
Alcohol intake is limited to one to two glasses of wine per day for men and one glass per day for women.
Daily movement and physical activity is also encouraged.
The Mediterranean diet does not stress individual healthy foods - no one ‘superfood’ is to be added to the diet to promote health. Instead, a total pattern of eating where foods work together to promote health is encouraged.
Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet include prevention of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. This diet has also been shown to promote healthy aging and play a role in the reversal of chronic disease.
Be sure to check out this month’s ‘Feature Food,’ hummus, and recipe, grilled pineapple. Both of these boast healthy, plant-based foods that are definitely Mediterranean diet friendly.
Also, stay tuned - next month Kristin will prepare homemade roasted red pepper hummus on our new video blog! You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make this dish. Impress guests at an upcoming gathering or make this hummus a new family staple to keep in the fridge for snacktime.
Toups, Kelly. “The Mediterranean Diet.” Today’s Dietitian., Great Valley Publishing Company, Inc. 2016. Web. 30 Jun 2017.