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Mediterranean Diet – Let’s Talk About It

Food is consumed by every living being on earth every day, but only a few are able to strike a balance between taste and health. A diet rich in flavor is often lacking in health benefits and vice versa. This leaves mankind with the dilemma of choosing between the two paradoxes always accompanying their diet: under or over nutrition, tasty and unhealthy, or healthy and bland.

Fortunately, some research, social observations, and communication helped humans find a wholesome diet that does not leave one in the confusion of choosing between taste and health. A combination of goodness and taste, colors and nutrition, aroma and health benefits, the Mediterranean diet won the hearts of many struggling to find a balanced diet.

Origins of the Mediterranean Diet

Some decades ago, it was discovered that people living in the Mediterranean countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, and France are healthier than Americans. Even the most recent World Population Report also identifies Spaniards and Italians to be the healthiest people in the World.[1] It was attributed to their diet and eating habits, and a close study of their diet revealed significant differences.

Since the Middle Ages, many cultural and civilization shifts from ancient Egyptians and Greeks to the Roman empire, the rise of Muslims to the discovery of America, all the historical civilizations amended the culture and diet of the region and gave way to the Mediterranean diet as we know it today.[2]

The Mediterranean region gave way to a simple vegetable and cereals-based diet consumed by the middle-income population. Over time, affluence gave way to meat consumption, but the general population greatly included plant-based foods in their diet. These people also consumed fish and seafood more compared to red meat. Hence, the Mediterranean diet is a combination of vegetables, fruits, cereals, legumes, and all plant-based components with highly reduced uses of red meat & processed foods.

What Are the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?

For the fourth consecutive year, the Mediterranean diet has topped the U.S. News and World Report List in 2021. [3] The American Heart Association has also endorsed it as a recommended diet for heart health. [4]

This is because of the amazing health and nutrition benefits attached to this natural diet. The key benefits of consuming the Mediterranean diet include the following:

  • Prevents heart diseases and stroke
  • Reduces risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure
  • Removes excess cholesterol from arteries and keeps blood vessels open if used in rich virgin olive oil
  • Reduces risks of developing breast cancer
  • Reduces risks of certain diseases like Parkinson’s diseases and Alzheimer’s disease [5]
  • Proved to help in weight loss [6]

The Mediterranean diet keeps the hunger pangs at bay if you are trying to lose weight and control your portions because it is a filling diet.

Additionally, you can play with a variety of vegetables and fruits and create your favorite recipes.

Fits Well With Food Allergies

Another great benefit of the Mediterranean diet is that it fits well with the dietary preferences of people with food allergies. You can easily switch the carbs to wholegrain versions and go soy-free, gluten-free, egg and dairy-free with your Mediterranean diet menu if you have any of the above food intolerance. In fact, a Mediterranean diet with a gluten-free version is a much more beneficial diet for many who are allergic to gluten. Studies also show that people with Celiac disease following a gluten-free Mediterranean diet show improvement in their health status. [7] Many studies incorporate gluten-free menus for the Mediterranean diet as well.

Mediterranean Food – What to Eat?

Sixteen countries are bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which is why there is no fixed Mediterranean diet plan. Every country has a different set of recipes and culinary specialties; however, certain food groups are common to all of them and are regarded as Mediterranean food in general.

You can choose to eat or eliminate foods of your choice. Just make sure to follow certain food guidelines to stick to a Mediterranean diet.

General Mediterranean Food Guidelines

Eat Plentifully Consume Moderately Restrict / Reduce
Fruits & vegetables Fish Red meat
Starchy foods like potatoes, rice Dairy like eggs, cheese, yogurt Trans fat like margarine, shortening
Bread and pasta (Wholegrain preferably) Sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts
Beans, lentils, legumes, cereals Highly processed foods like frozen, fried & baked foods
Vegetable and plant oils Refined grains and oils

 

Mediterranean Diet Plan

There are plenty of Mediterranean diet plans on the internet as a free resource. All these diet plans try to incorporate the important food groups like fruits, vegetables, and fish in balanced proportions in the three meals every day.

But designing a diet plan for an individual is not that easy. Every human being has a set of health concerns, history, and lifestyle. There can never be a one-diet-fits-all food plan for everyone. One can definitely switch to a healthy lifestyle and follow the general food guidelines to follow the Mediterranean diet. But, if you have certain health goals like:

  • Losing weight up to a certain scale
  • Reduce your risk of hereditary heart diseases
  • Manage your Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Management of any health condition

In all the above cases, it is always advised to follow individual food plans specifically designed to address your health goals and needs.

For a customized Mediterranean food plan, I can advise you according to your unique health status. To book an appointment, please get in touch.

If you are looking for a sample Mediterranean food plan to start with, to improve your health and lifestyle exclusively, I can provide you with a general food template to help you fill in foods of your choice and still strike a balance.

Customize Your Mediterranean Food Plan

Because not everyone may like to eat the same things, it is best to have a customizable food plan. The table below can be used as a template to fit in your favorite recipes, fruits, and vegetables. This way, you will have your own customized Mediterranean food plan.

Here is a general guide of what your simple food plan should look like:

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Eat some fruit, nuts, and wholegrain meal (like oatmeal)

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Recipes using rice/potatoes/cereals, vegetables

 

Fruits in dessert

Recipes using vegetables and fish (like salads or grilled fish with baked veggies)

 

Fruits in dessert

*Consume dairy (yogurt, eggs, cheese) in breakfast, lunch, or dinner twice a week
Snack Drinks Miscellaneous
Nuts Water, tea, coffee Extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
Fruits Red wine- 1 glass/day (optional) Spices and herbs can be used
Avoid sugar-added drinks

 

For an amazing recipe idea for lunch or dinner, try my tried and tested recipe for Salmon, and side it with plenty of your favorite steamed vegetables to complete your Mediterranean meal.

Bottom Line

The Mediterranean diet is not in vogue but has been a proven way of eating for years. It focuses on plant-based components, is easy to digest astronomically, and has a plethora of health benefits. The internet offers loads of free resources on Mediterranean diet plans and several recipes to follow. But, to achieve maximum health benefits, consuming foods that best answer your health goals are best. To get your concerns answered, I can prepare your personal Mediterranean Food plan.

References

[1]. Healthiest Countries 2021. Accessed from: https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/healthiest-countries. [2]. The Mediterranean Diet: A History of Health. Accessed from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684452/ [3]. What’s the best diet for 2021? Mediterranean, flexitarian and DASH top the list. Accessed from: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/what-s-best-diet-2021-mediterranean-flexitarian-dash-top-list-n1252716 [4]. What is the Mediterranean Diet? Accessed from: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet [5]. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: a meta-analysis. Accessed from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2533524/ [6]. A systematic review of the Mediterranean Diet for Long-term Weight Loss. Accessed from: https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(15)30027-9/fulltext [7]. Combining the Mediterranean Diet and the Gluten-Free Diet. Accessed from:https://www.bidmc.org/-/media/files/beth-israel-org/centers-and-departments/digestive-disease-center/celiac-center/mediterranean-gf-diethandout-08-31-2018ak-md-js.ashx?la=en&hash=93C31060FAAB5FF6440F324CF3DE993B6D18C0B0

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MEET CHEN BEN ASHER

CERTIFIED NUTRITIONIST, CLINICIAN, AND SPEAKER

Chen is a Functional Nutrition expert consultant,  leading authority on weight management, women’s health and gluten sensitivity. She is a clinician, public speaker, educator and Amazon Best Seller author of “What If Gluten Free Is Not Enough – The Balanced Diet”. Chen uses Functional Nutrition to help you find answers to the root causes of your illness and address the biochemical imbalances that may trigger your health and weight. She uses cutting edge lab testing and design the nutritional program to your specific needs as an individual. Food, supplements, lifestyle changes will have integrated to bring balance If you are looking for personalized nutritional support, we highly recommended contacting Mor’s Nutrition & More Wellness Center in Cupertino, California today.
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