Easy ways to adopt the Mediterranean Diet — one of the world’s healthiest eating strategies.
The Mediterranean Diet has once again been voted the “best overall diet” according to U.S. News & World Report. For the fifth year in a row, this accolade recognizes the way people eat on the shores of the Mediterranean — even though these populations have been eating this way for millennia.
But what is the Mediterranean Diet exactly? First, it’s more of a life style than an actual diet. This is why you might have the most longterm success adopting this way of eating. Stringent diets focused on eliminating whole categories of food (or strictly limiting what you can eat) are notoriously unsustainable in the long run.
The main tenants of the Mediterranean Diet are eating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes, while limiting the amount of meat. This diet evolved from the southern Mediterranean regions of Europe. And stresses healthy mono-unsaturated fats that you get primarily from olive oil and fish in place of saturated and trans fats that you would get from animal products and butter.
Eating this way has shown to defend your body against heart disease and inflammation. Because of that, it leads to some of the healthiest and longest living people in the world. Ansel Keys observed this when he examined the lifestyles of populations in seven countries around the world after the second World War. He discovered that those living in the Mediterranean had lower instances of heart disease, and even dementia.
Here are some simple ways to incorporate the main tenants of the diet into your life now.
Ditch (most of the meat)
When scientists studied people in the southern Mediterranean in the 1960s, most of them didn’t have the luxury of regularly eating meat. Limiting your consumption of saturated animal fats is one of the best ways to prevent heart disease and lower inflammation. It’s also one of the greenest choices you can make right now.
Implement the 80/20 Rule
I often recommend the 80/20 rule to my Los Angeles personal chef clients. When you look at your plate 80 percent of what’s on there should be plant-based while the other 20 percent is your protein. The Mediterranean diet recommends most of your protein come from plant sources, fish, or poultry. Just adjusting your portions this way can help you achieve the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.
Focus on fish that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. This is fish that is wild caught and on the smaller size. Some great choices are wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod, and herring.
Olive Oil All the Way
The mono-unsaturated fats in extra virgin olive oil is the heart healthy boost we need right now. Just make sure you’re getting authentic olive oil. Industrially processed olive oil loses many of its health benefits. And even though olive oil from other countries is labeled extra virgin, the United States has no regulation to certify that it is. To make sure your extra virgin olive oil isn’t a fake, research the maker or look for the California Olive Oil Council seal.
Whole grains come packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fiber. But make sure they’re whole and unrefined so you get the full benefits. The ancient Greeks were fans of barley, which is one of the most nutrient-dense grains available. Other top choices include whole oats, whole wheat, buckwheat, bulgur, spelt, and quinoa.
Whether you hit the produce section in your local market, support your neighborhood farm or CSA, or take a look at what’s hot at Melissa’s Produce. Stocking up on seasonal selections and hearty leafy greens are the backbone of this diet. You also should be mindful of sourcing certain produce organically. This protects you from ingesting excess chemicals and pesticides. The Environmental Working Group’s annual guide to pesticides in produce gives you a great place to start.
Build Your Community
It may have nothing to do with food, but community bonds are one of the main factors of longevity in the Mediterranean. Whether you’re gathering in person or opting for a group zoom, community is a main tenant of the Mediterranean Diet.
Although studies aren’t totally conclusive as to how healthy red wine is, it is rich in antioxidants. And what better way to expand yourself socially than sipping it with a friend over a nice meal. So many of the tenants of the Mediterranean Diet go hand-in-hand.