Mediterranean diet

Mediterranean diet

Who, What, Why, When and How Of the Mediterranean Diet

There are nearly hundreds of diets out there claiming to reduce inflammation, fight disease, shred pounds and basically change your entire life. Some of these historical diets are a bit crazy (have you heard of the cotton ball diet? Yikes!), but maybe of them are founded in an interesting historical, scientific or cultural basis. As with any type of diet or dieting, it is up to the individual, their needs and lifestyle whether or not the diet is a good fit for them. Some diets require a stricter, more drastic lifestyle change (such as the carnivore diet, keto, AIP, vegetarianism or veganism), and some are better easily adaptable into the everyday lifestyle — including the topic of our blog today, The Mediterranean Diet.
One of the great things about the Mediterranean diet is that many health-conscious people may be adhering to it without even knowing! The Mediterranean diet consists of fruit, veggies, whole grains and healthy fats, with slightly less white and red meat. It is named after the region where the diet is organically followed: the Mediterranean region. Specifically, that's Spain, Crete, and Italy. In those countries, this diet isn't a fad or a weight loss regime, but a way of life. In fact, that's generally how the Mediterranean diet is conducted.

There's not much in the way of "rules" within this diet style, more general guidelines and informed choices. Generally, it is suggested to consume mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil. You can also enjoy low to moderate consumption of poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and red wine. The "hardest part" is to limit your amount of sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, beers, and liquors. These are great general guidelines for any person, but for those at risk of obesity, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, or heart attacks, the Mediterranean style of reduced red meat and highly processed grains can literally save your life. 

The general philosophy is this: poultry or seafood at least twice a week (ideally one meal a day), the highest quality vegetables and fruit as the main feature of every meal, boost your healthy fats including fish, avocado, olive oil and nuts, avoid added sugars. Harvard Health Publishing suggests a few other easy changes including 

          Begin or end each meal with a salad. Choose crisp, dark greens and whatever vegetables are in season.
          Eat at least three servings a week of legumes. 
          Eat less high-fat, high-sugar desserts.

That sounds relatively easy, right? You get to enjoy delicious, refreshing fruit and vegetables, to help you feel full and light on your feet after every meal. Honestly, the hardest part of the Mediterranean diet isn't even about the food, it is about how you eat it. that's right, the Mediterranean diet asks you to make another important lifestyle change: mindful eating. Don't eat mindlessly in front of the tv, or rush through your plate to get back to your computer or to move on with the rest of the day. This diet asks you to enjoy eating as a communal experience, sharing in the joy of good food with your loved ones. When you're not distracted or rushed at meal times, you can actually feel the difference this food is making for you. So, we've talked a little bit about the who, what, why, when and how, but we wanted to simplify it for you. Here we go: 

Who should follow the Mediterranean diet? 
The Mediterranean diet is suitable for anybody but especially 
- People looking to improve heart health
- Individuals aiming to manage weight 
- Those seeking to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer 

While this diet is less restrictive than others, people who have sensitivities to food restrictions or diet limitations. People who are low on iron or require more protein in their diet may need to adapt this diet to meet their individual needs. 

What is included in the Mediterranean diet? 
The Mediterranean diet typically includes:
 - Abundant fruits and vegetables 
 - Whole grains
 - Healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts
 - Lean proteins like fish and poultry
 - Moderate amounts of dairy products
- Limited red meat
- Fresh herbs and spices for flavour

 Why should you follow the diet? 
There are several reasons to follow the Mediterranean diet: 
-  It can help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing unsaturated fats and increasing antioxidants found in fruit such as berries.
-  It supports weight loss and maintenance by being reducing calorie intake: higher volume of food with less calories per serving. It also aids the bodies digestive system in running efficiently with fibre, healthy fats and more biologically available nutrients to reduce cravings.
 - The omega fatty acids and antioxidants may aid in cognitive function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. 
 - It provides essential nutrients for overall well-being.
- It is associated with a longer, healthier life, most likely due to all of the reasons above — and wider lifestyle changes.
When should you eat the meals? 
While the Mediterranean diet doesn't have an associated schedule, we can take pointers from the citizens of the Mediterranean region. In regions of Spain, Italy and Crete, people: 
- Breakfast is not large but thoughtfully built to include three things: whole grains, fresh fruit or vegetables, and a source of lean protein. 
- Lunch is the main meal aka the biggest meal of the day consumed between 1 to 3 pm, and bookended by mindful exercise. 
- Dinner is eaten much later in the night, between 8:00pm and 10:00pm to allow families to eat together. Dinner is eaten slowly and with a larger focus on quickly digestible foods like fruit and veg. 

How can you start introducing the Mediterranean diet today? 
Harvard School of Health had some great suggestions above, but you can also: 
- Build a rainbow plate at every meal.
 - Substituting butter or vegetable oils with olive oil.
 - Choosing whole grains or wholewheat over refined grains.
 - Keep red meat for special occasions (to save money and improve your diet!).
 - Using fresh or semi-fresh herbs and spices for flavour instead of salt or processed seasonings.
 - Enjoying nightly meals with family and friends.
- Walk away from your desk at lunch time and set a timer for how long you'd like to eat.

Give it a go with our five day Mediterranean meal plan on our recipe blog and shop your shopping list on our website here.