Mediterranean Diet 101: What you Need to Know

The Mediterranean Diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat. Read on to discover why.

When it comes to eating and diets, one of the most requested ways of eating my Los Angeles personal chef clients ask for is The Mediterranean Diet. U.S. News & World Report named it the best “diet” of 2023 for the 6th year in a row. But aside from eating all your favorite things next to a beautiful blue sea, what is it, really? (Pssst: When you’re ready to implement, this post has great Mediterranean Diet tips.)

I hate to call it a diet it at all. Rather the Mediterranean Diet is a traditional eating pattern that is common of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. These locals include Italy, Greece, and Spain. This way of life is characterized by three main tenants.

  • High intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil,
  • Moderate consumption of fish and poultry, and
  • Low amounts of dairy products, red meat, and sweets.

The way people in the Mediterranean eat has been associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer, and improved cognitive function and longevity.

Eat Real Food

At its core, the Mediterranean Diet is based on a whole food approach, meaning it emphasizes the consumption of minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods. Fruits and vegetables, the cornerstone of the diet, are eaten in abundance and provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Whole grains, such as barley, bulgur, and whole wheat, provide fiber and energy, while legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas, are rich in protein and fiber. Nuts and seeds, especially almonds and walnuts, are also an important source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber.

Embrace Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes olive oil — namely extra virgin olive oil — as the primary source of fat. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to improve heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Unlike many other oils, extra virgin olive oil is not heavily processed. Also, its high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds contribute to its health benefits.

Consider your Proteins

Another key aspect of the Mediterranean Diet is the moderate consumption of fish and poultry. Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health and brain function. Poultry, like chicken and turkey, is a good source of lean protein, and is often grilled or roasted, not fried.

Things to Eat in Moderation

Dairy products, red meat, and sweets are consumed in moderation on the Mediterranean Diet. Dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, are typically eaten in small amounts. Additionally, they are usually made from sheep or goat milk, which is lower in fat than cow’s milk. Red meat is consumed infrequently, and is usually grilled or roasted. Sweets, such as pastries and cakes, are not a regular part of the diet. People consume them in moderation only on special occasions.

Community is also Important

In addition to the foods that are consumed, the Mediterranean Diet also places a strong emphasis on physical activity, socializing, and stress management. Meals are typically enjoyed with family and friends, and are often accompanied by physical activity, such as walking or gardening. Stress management is also important, as the Mediterranean culture places a strong emphasis on relaxation and enjoyment of life.

Finally, the Mediterranean Diet is a nutrient-dense eating pattern that emphasizes whole foods, olive oil, moderate consumption of fish and poultry, and low amounts of dairy products, red meat, and sweets. It has been associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases and improved health outcomes. Additionally, its emphasis on whole foods, physical activity, and stress management contribute to its overall health benefits.

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