There is a lot of talk out there about the Mediterranean diet. Have you tried it yet? Should you? What is all the hype about?
Well it's based on the traditional foods ate by people over 50 years ago who lived near the Mediterranean Sea in countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Research has shown that these Mediterranean residents experienced healthier, longer lives than most other nationalities and more specifically, experienced less pain and inflammatory conditions.
So what is it about the Mediterranean way of eating that makes it so healthy? Well the benefits keep adding up the more research that is done on this popular diet. Here are just a few of the benefits that have been indisputably linked to the Mediterranean people's nutrition choices:
● Lower rates of obesity and lower weight issues overall
● More stable blood sugar levels (which is very good news for Diabetics and people struggling with hypoglycaemia or food cravings!)
● Lower rates of stroke and cardiovascular disease
● Reduced rates of dementia and other neurological disorders (ie; Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis)
● Fewer cancers (specifically breast & colorectal)
● Lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure
● Better digestive health and stronger immunity
● Less pain-related conditions (ie; arthritis, fibromyalgia)
Most of the above ailments are often a result of excessive inflammation running rampant throughout the body. So it only makes sense that the Mediterranean diet, which is naturally anti-inflammatory in nature, helps to keep these conditions to a minimum.
Another positive note about the Mediterranean diet is it doesn't restrict certain macro-nutrients which can often lead to feeling deprived and difficult to stick to. Healthy fats, lean protein and healthy carbohydrates are ALL supported on the Mediterranean diet because the body needs ALL of these macro-nutrients to function at its optimum level.
So what types of food are specifically eaten on the Mediterranean diet?
Well the focus is simply on clean, wholefoods that are naturally loaded with nutrients like the ones below:
● Fruits and vegetables
● Nuts and seeds
● Whole grains
● Fish and other seafood (ideally fresh and wild)
● Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
● Herbs and spices
These foods are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and fibre which is essential for an efficient digestion.
Plus, in addition to healthy nutrition choices, meals tend to be eaten in the enjoyable company of others adding more weight to the belief that mindful eating where we take our time eating and a positive, stress-free, happy environment are also important factors to consider when looking to improve our overall health. Additionally, these individuals tend to be more active in their day-to-day lives than North Americans and Europeans in cooler climates so the habit of regular exercise certainly doesn't hurt them either!
Now let's talk drinks for a moment. What do the Mediterraneans choose as their beverage of choice?
Well as boring as it may sound, WATER!
Red wine tends to be the alcoholic beverage of choice (although only consumed in moderation) which is loaded with a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol. Coffee and tea are also Mediterranean favourites but they tend to avoid adding sugar and cream which adds unnecessary calories and stress to the digestive process.
Chicken, eggs, dairy and red meat, although not avoided, are limited to small amounts only.
So did you pick up on the types of foods that are NOT included in the Mediterranean diet?
It should probably come as no surprise that the following, highly processed, sugar-laden foods are big no-no's in the warmer climates:
● Processed meats
● Sauces and gravies
● Sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and other alcoholic beverages
● Refined grains and oils (including hydrogenated oils)
● Too much salt
● Added sugars
So you may not be surprised that I am a big advocate of the Mediterranean "diet" if you are to choose a diet of any kind to use as the foundation for your eating habits. It supports a very healthy lifestyle based on clean, whole-foods and a combination of ALL essential nutrients. My only advice would be to go one step further and make sure you are balancing all the essential macro-nutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) in each of your meals to ensure balanced blood-sugar levels at all times.
And because our physical, mental and emotional health requires more than just good nutrition, the Mediterranean way of life certainly increases your chance of keeping stress to a minimum and living a happier, more fulfilling existence.
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Below I'm sharing one of my favourite and oh-so-simple Mediterranean recipes that you can whip together in no time. And if you like this one, don't forget to download your FREE anti-inflammatory meal planning kit HERE so you can experiment with some other tasty, exotic dishes!
Recipe: Mediterranean Cod with Olives & Asparagus
4 cod fish fillets (or another fresh fish of your choice)
2 handfuls asparagus, ends removed
1 cup black kalamata olives, drained
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
2 tsp dried dill
2 dashes sea salt / Himalayan salt
2 dashes freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, sliced
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the fillets in the middle of the pan.
2. Add the asparagus, olives, garlic, and tomatoes around the fish.
3. Brush the fish and vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with dill, salt and pepper.
4. Slice lemon and place one onto each fillet.
5. Squeeze juice from the rest of the lemon onto the vegetables.
6. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Check if fillets are opaque all the way through and flake easily with a fork. If not, then cook for another few minutes.