Mediterranean Diet

20. November 2010

Mediterranean Diet

For years, we’ve been hearing about the health benefits of a “Mediterranean diet” – a heart-healthy eating plan that combines elements of Mediterranean-style cooking. And for years, much of the evidence of those health benefits was anecdotal… hearsay.

But the proof is in the pudding (I mean olive oil!). Actually, the proof is in the research. Eating a traditional Mediterranean diet really does reduce the risk of heart disease along with a host of other disease conditions.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains is the hallmark of most healthy eating plans. But while the Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of good eating you can add a splash of flavorful olive oil, interesting spices and perhaps a glass of red wine if you want to adopt the cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The food plan also includes slight variations in proportions of certain foods.

I recently traveled to Israel for a tour of the Holy Land fully expecting to gain the several pounds I always bring back with me after a trip. Lack of exercise and eating out every day are a deadly combination for me!

But this trip was different. Tom and I walked everywhere… touring the ruins, cathedrals and shops. And every meal was prepared traditional Mediterranean-style… packed full of leafy greens, fresh tomatoes and crisp cucumbers. Even the fast-food falafels were more like a “salad in a pita!” Back home, I was thrilled to see the scale had hardly moved.

Weight-gain aside, what’s really exciting is that most, if not all major, scientific organizations now encourage healthy adults to eat more like an Israeli… a Frenchman or an Italian. The food plan not only reduces the risk of heart disease. Now you can add a number of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

How do you get started? Here are the key components of a Mediterranean diet:

• Eating primarily plant-based foods… such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
• Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
• Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
• Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
• Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
• Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)

AND… getting plenty of exercise! You’ll find the Mediterranean diet can actually become part of a lifestyle that will keep you healthy in body, mind and spirit! You’ll never believe what it did for my friend and former colleague, Channel 10 TV news anchor, Kimberly Hunt! (See interview in “Live” section)
 

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.