Look what I found in the Mediterranean!
During an in-depth study in diet and nutrition in the 1950s, Ancel Keys, a Canadian physiologist stumbled upon a startling fact. He discovered that even the lowest-income groups of Southern Italy and Greece were somehow healthier than the richest people residing in Finland and the USA.
This study, famously known as the “Seven-countries study”, unveiled to the entire world the massive benefits of adopting a Mediterranean diet.
Keys, a probable follower of this kind of diet, lived until the ripe age of a 100.
His study was one of the first to link saturated fats to increased cardiovascular deterioration and the key advantages of adopting a Mediterranean style of living.
The Mediterranean “Way of Life”
Nestled between the irregular coastlines of Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has always been a travel goal for a majority of travelers worldwide.
The clear blue waters and shimmering sands fill people with a sense of wanderlust.
This sea also served as an important trade route between Eurasian and African regions.
But these are not the reasons why we are going to focus on this region today.
Today we are going to delve deeper into the diet and lifestyle of people native to this region.
Studies have indicated that the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle is one of the healthiest in the world.
The Mediterranean “way of life” has proven to be a realistic way of building natural immunity, maintaining a healthy weight, and having an increased lifespan.
So what are the people of Southern Greece, Italy, Turkey and Spain eating, which the rest of the world isn’t?
How come their diet has become synonymous with health and longevity?
The answer is as simple as it can be.
They indulge in a high fiber diet of fruits and vegetables, and the occasional healthy meat which makes them a beacon of healthy living.
Is it really just about fruits and vegetables?
Well, that’s not something you don’t know.
Since time immemorial we have been taught what the elements of a good, well-balanced diet are.
You have the fresh fruits, the vegetables, the whole grains, healthy fats and the list goes on and on.
So what makes the Mediterranean diet plan so different from the thousands of dusty nutrition books stacked in the corner of your local bookstore?
This article reveals all the secrets of this exotic diet and how easily you can incorporate those into your daily living
For starters, let’s take a look at their ingredients
- They pick the fruits and vegetables native to their coastline. This long list includes greens such as spinach and kale, and non-starchy vegetables such as artichokes, tomatoes, cauliflower, and eggplants. The fruits are mainly berries, melons, and oranges.
- They love having healthy doses of nuts and seeds in their diet. Almonds, sesame, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
- Next come the wholesome legumes – the beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts.
- A healthy yet measured proportion of tubers comprising of sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, and potatoes.
- Whole and healthy grains such as oats, brown rice, buckwheat, barley, and corn.
- Spices to add a healthy twist. Mediterranean people love using oregano, parsley, thyme, and rosemary.
- Fish and seafood with one important feature. They are fresh and wild-caught.
- Dairy products made of goat milk and probiotic yogurt.
- Animal source of proteins which includes pasture-raised poultry and red meat.
- Red wine.
- Everything on this list is cooked in – the most notable contribution of the Mediterranean region to the world – Olive oil.
The Mediterranean Dietary Pattern
Well just having these healthy foods in your pantry doesn’t make your diet automatically Mediterranean.
The way these healthy ingredients are consumed is equally important.
For example, you can take the potatoes and deep fry them in olive oil and say that its Mediterranean since it makes use of very Mediterranean-ish ingredients.
Or have a beef steak every night coupled with generous amounts of red wine and think that you are going to live to be hundred.
Many people confuse Mediterranean diet with actual Italian, Greek, or Spanish food.
One important thing to remember here is that pasta, pizza, and processed meats, which so famously reside in European cuisine list, are NOT a part of the Mediterranean diet. Also, you need to understand their characteristic diet plan to gain the advantages of this nutritious diet.
Otherwise, you will just end up eating copious amounts of unhealthy foods under the pretext of healthy Mediterranean eating.
How to plan your Mediterranean meal?
This diet or rather a lifestyle has a very keen and balanced approach towards eating and living. Their dietary structure was studied widely for its innate benefits. To understand this you need to have a look at their balanced food “pyramid”
A Mediterranean lifestyle is based on the foundation of being happy and physically active.
They usually have large family luncheons and dinners where everybody sits together to enjoy a hale and hearty meal.
Eating with family and friends is an important aspect of the Mediterranean living.
This key feature has shown to have positive psychological implications such as lower levels of stress, anxiety, depression and even dementia.
Key elements of this diet plan
The Carbs and proteins
A major proportion of the diet comprises of whole grains. Whole grains are seeds of grass-like plants which have three important components intact – the bran, the endosperm, and the germ.
- Bran is rich in minerals and anti-oxidants while being fibrous in nature. The germ component is also infused with vitamins, proteins, and minerals. The endosperm part is roughly almost carbs.
- Refined grains are the ones which have the germ and bran removed leaving only the carb-rich center endosperm for our consumption.
- Mediterranean diet is thus healthy because it focuses on consuming the whole version of grains with all its essential nutrients intact.
- Next comes the legumes. This food group, which roughly contains more than 19,000 different species, is extremely protein and fiber dense. These are the best form of plant-based proteins which aid in the regulation of bowel movements and also promote weight-loss. They are inherently good for your heart and blood sugar and also a storehouse of vitamins.
- The fruits and vegetable consumed regularly by the Mediterraneans are much higher than what their American counterparts consume. A typical diet plan includes no less than 7 to 10 servings of these per day. This fills your body with a rich dose of anti-oxidants and polyphenols.
The fats, the fish, and the fowl
- The fresh seafood and wide variety of nuts and seeds are the sources of omega-3 fatty acids or the healthy fats. These improve your HDL cholesterol count which is beneficial for your brain and heart.Tuna, trout, salmon, and mackerel are mainly what they prefer eating.
- Every dish in the Mediterranean diet plan is prepared in Olive oil instead of butter or hydrogenated vegetable oils. This oil, which is rightly called as liquid gold, is replete with major health benefits.Olive oil helps in drastically reducing bodily inflammation, improving metabolism, decreasing the risk of cardiac arrest, improving blood pressure, and even lowering rates of depression.
- The type of dairy, poultry, and red-meat the Mediterranean people opt for is often grass-fed or free range. This removes the risk of harmful chemicals entering our systems which are found in processed and packaged meat. The number of servings of red meat is once per week. It doesn’t exceed 3-ounces per serving.
- They consume poultry and eggs twice or thrice per week. They are fond of consuming healthy probiotic yogurt. This kind of yogurt is full of healthy bacteria and yeast which is beneficial for maintaining your gut-health.
To drink or not to drink – Red Wine
Red wine is an important element of the Mediterranean diet.
The recommended intake is no more than one glass for women and two glasses for men.
Water is still the first choice of beverage.
There is absolutely no place for hard liquor or artificially sweetened drinks in the Mediterranean diet. Moderate consumption of red wine is cardio-protective or good for the heart.
Red wine is also an excellent source of anti-oxidants and flavonoids. It can even normalize your blood sugar level and improve cognition. Red wine is also a great option for people who are looking for healthy weight loss.
It has also shown to protect the aging brain from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The unending list of benefits includes
- Protection against the number one lifestyle disease – Type 2 diabetes. The fiber content of this diet prevents your glucose levels from spiking and maintains a normal sugar level.
- By cutting out ALL processed, refined, packaged, and artificially preserved goods, this diet cuts down the risk of cardiovascular ailments (the no. 1 killer amongst chronic diseases).
- The anti-oxidant rich foods reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is what ages you and makes your muscles weak (including your brain’s). This diet thus protects you from aging fast, both physically and mentally.
- It improves your cholesterol levels by increasing HDL (the good cholesterol) and lowering the LDL (the bad cholesterol) thereby improving your metabolism.
- This one of the very few holistic diet plans which helps you lose weight in a healthy, controlled, and realistic manner (without compromising on taste!).
The Mediterranean lifestyle, thus, improves your overall health.
It has all the entities that are required for a long, healthy, and happy life.
Tragically, our modern lifestyle and diet are devoid of all these elements. We are no longer being killed by infections or predators but by the consequence of our own lifestyle choices.
Hence, it is more important now for you to readily adopt this lifestyle and eating habits if you want to ensure a healthy life for you and your family. No wonder, the Greek mythology is full of immortal godly beings.
The elixir was not hidden in the depths of seas or the peak of Mt. Olympus- it was always in their diet!
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