Why should you choose a Mediterranean diet? Multiple studies worldwide, repetitively deliver the same conclusion that Mediterranean people are some of the healthiest people who also live the longest lives.
Not only are Mediterranean people the healthiest, but they’re also the happiest because of what they are eating daily. If you love food and need a flexible diet that’s going to require you to be less pedantic about calorie intake, boost your moods, balance hormones, make you feel and look amazing, then you’ve found it. And just to add the cherry on top, this diet also has many preventative and anti-inflammatory health and disease benefits.
Before I get ahead of myself…
What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
I personally discovered this eating style through a ton of research. After I developed a really negative relationship with food, I realised it was time for me to make a big change. Something inside of me clicked and told me that by replacing every meal, I was actually making myself sick, tired, depressed and was certainly not getting the results I desired! Whilst I was passionate about being fit and healthy, I became more obsessed with the way I looked and how much fat I had left on my stomach, rather than concentrating on what I was feeding my body.
Unlike the popular plans that require books, calculators and very specific rules, the Mediterranean diet is a much more flexible and intuitive eating pattern and lifestyle. There are a few principles to follow, however, you have the freedom to adjust it to your personal needs.
Rumour has it that the Mediterranean diet has also been endorsed by esteemed researchers, doctors and dietitians as the best “overall” diet for 2018. (FYI, the low-carb, high-fat Keto diet tied for the last place as Best Diet Overall.)
Basically, there isn’t necessarily a set structure to follow, which I love. You have the freedom to create your own routine, however, the eating plan can easily be customised if you are somebody who would prefer to track caloric intake. (Especially, if you’re an athlete or looking to gain muscle.) Generally, the Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, olive oil and lean sources of animal protein like fish, chicken or turkey with moderate amounts of dairy like cheese and yoghurt. It’s low in red meat and other saturated fats, and it contains few processed foods or refined sugars.
My favourite part is that the diet encourages moderate amounts of red wine with your meals. Of course, this is optional and I don’t, nor would I, recommend drinking wine every day! Keep it to a glass 2-3 times maximum per week. Lastly, Mediterranean’s are highly social and it is very important to sit down with your meals as a family or a group, rather than rushing through them on-the-go. (Obviously, we can’t always do this, but trying to create an appreciation for food and family is part of the Med-lifestyle.)
Think along the lines of Italy and Spain.
What Can You Eat On The Mediterranean Diet?
The first thing that sparked my attention was the fact that the diet is so inclusive. I never feel as if I am missing out.
Truthfully, after just one day of following this diet, the first thing that changed was my mood. I have never felt happier. If anything you’ll become a more pleasant person to be around. Perhaps it’s also the wide variety of options you have on the diet that makes me feel so happy.
The true Med-lifestyle is actually derived from the way a “peasant” would eat along the Mediterranean coastlines. They would predominantly eat a plant-based diet with the occasional addition of fish or meat. However, if you’re a meat lover, don’t worry because you can still incorporate meat into your diet. However, you’ll just need to remain more mindful about which type of meat and how much.
How Do You Start?
I suggest implementing more fruits and vegetables into your eating habits. That would be the first step in eating like a person from the Mediterranean. Expert nutritionists recommend about nine servings of fresh produce a day, which most people never reach. You can eat olive oil and drink your red wine, but if you do not add your vegetables and fruit you definitely won’t maximise any of the diets health benefits. More importantly, you need to eat your leafy greens! Try to include a few cups every week and then mix it up between red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables. This ensures you’re getting some great phytochemicals and other important nutrients.
An important thing to remember is that this is not a low-fat diet! Nor is it an exceptionally high one. It falls somewhere in between. Therefore, you can definitely eat more nuts, nut butter and extra-virgin olive oil. However, keep it to a tablespoon of peanut butter on a slice of rye toast or a handful of almonds, 1 tablespoon of olive oil or half an avocado. Mainly because nuts, avocados and oils are higher in fat and calories, so find a good balance and stay mindful.
Legumes (chickpeas, lentils etc.) and whole grains are vital. There is a place for bread and pasta in the Mediterranean diet, but choose whole-grain and whole-wheat options over white and refined grains. They contribute fibre and volume to your diet, which can help you feel full quicker. More importantly, you need to ensure that your protein is up to scratch! With this kind of eating plan, it is important that you opt for lean meat options like chicken and fish. You can also get your protein from eggs, yoghurt and cheese which are all components of the Mediterranean diet.
Lastly, you need to drink lots of water throughout the day and squeeze in some exercise daily.
Does It Break The Bank?
No, not at all. I know what it’s like to want to be healthy. But you’re afraid of spending all your money on it. For starters, food is life. It is an investment in yourself. You need to know that it’s where you have to spend a good portion of your money and time. If you’re not prepared to do this, then you’re not ready for this transformation. Secondly, if you are a smart shopper, you’ll know to ALWAYS compare prices. You’ll opt for the same thing at a lower price.
And third, do not waste your money on stupid products that claim they’ll make you lose weight like “fat burners” or “healthy.” snack bars. Just drink coffee, it’s the same as a fat burner. Those “healthy” energy bars are only excess calories. Instead, just eat an apple! And number four, you’ll have more to spend since you’re no longer buying those sneaky sweets, chocolate bars, takeaways and ice-creams.
Overall, shopping for the Mediterranean diet means shopping for whole foods. No boxes, cereal bars, or packaged and processed goods. You want to purchase items as close to their natural form as possible. This eating style doesn’t necessarily require you to track calories, but, it may be wise to track your daily nutrition count.
Lastly, my favourite part is that the diet doesn’t impose any strict eating times. You can basically eat or snack according to your body and schedule – within reason of course. . .
What Are The Health Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet?
There are endless benefits that come with eating this way. If you’d like to start then send me a message or comment below.
1. Encourages Healthy Weight Loss
There isn’t really a sacred secret as to why this diet makes you lose weight. It’s really quite simple. And the reason is mainly that it is non-restrictive. You still get to eat most of your favourite foods, which make you feel a lot more satisfied and less likely to give it up. If you really want to see those weight loss benefits then you need to follow my Mediterranean plan for at least six months. Forever, if possible! Better yet, try incorporating a form of regular physical exercise daily and watch your portions. Yes, the diet does encourage you to eat small amounts of bread and carbs. However, these can quickly add up and you need to be mindful of how much you’re consuming so as not to ruin your weight loss goals!
2. Improves Your Mood
All of us carry emotional baggage. It’s normal, but if you are battling mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, and even ADHD then you’ll enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of the Mediterranean diet. These disorders generally happen because your brain lacks dopamine. This chemical controls thought processing, body movements, and mood regulation.
However, the healthy fats and probiotic foods included and encouraged through this eating plan help your body produce this chemical – keeping your mood elevated and your brain happy. They’ll also contribute to gut health, which is a major trigger for mood disorders.
While researchers recommend that people continue with regular treatment programs, switching up your diet to adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle can be a fantastic supplement to traditional therapies. With time, you may find that you no longer require pharmacological interference.
3. Helps Prevent Cancer
I like to call this diet, my warrior meal plan! Mainly because researchers have discovered the possible protective nature of the diet and how it may contribute to the prevention of Cancer. There is also a close connection between the med-lifestyle and specific cancer sites.
More importantly, doctors have found this to be most effective at helping prevent the development of postmenopausal breast cancer. This is great news because this type of breast cancer often comes with a poor prognosis.
4. Reduces Your Risk Of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease
By eating this way your cholesterol, blood sugar levels and blood vessels all improve. Together these benefits can all reduce your risk of developing Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, all of the antioxidants you get from the various fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and seafood dishes eaten in this plan are what keep your cells from undergoing the process of oxidative stress. This is what causes high amounts of damage and can contribute to the development of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s
Interestingly, scientists recently learned that the Mediterranean diet may actually help protect elderly folk against cognitive decline. That is also why doctors have been trying to convince patients to follow a healthy eating plan for years now – in order to prevent illness and Dementia.
5. Maintains Heart Health
It might interest you to know, studies suggest that Mediterranean countries and heart disease are significantly lower than in the United States. The obvious factor is clearly dietary. Moreover, it is the Med-way to include more physical activity and social gatherings which contribute to keeping your mind, body and more importantly – your heart, healthy! Because this eating plan reduces “bad” cholesterol, it drastically strengthens your cardiovascular system.
Ironically, it’s said to not only be their food but their drink too. Red wine, which the diet promotes in moderation, has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Try and stick to this range:
Women may have 1 glass a day and men may have 2, to truly reap health benefits.
6. Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes
Surprisingly the Med-diet has been compared to several other eating plans like; vegetarian, vegan, low-carbohydrate, high-fibre, high-protein, and low-glycemic index diets. Experts discovered that the Med-diet actually turned out to be the most beneficial for diabetics and those with high blood sugar.
It seems that diets rich in monounsaturated fats and fibre are proving to lower blood sugar and cholesterol in diabetics the most. Replacing saturated fats and refined sugars are what increases our insulin stability.
7. Boosts Brain Health
This diet can actually make you smarter, by boosting cognition. In my experience, I have felt a massive improvement in my memory and attention span. However, experts have proven that followers of the diet, in fact, increase their memory, attention and focus.
Being focused makes life so much easier. You’ll experience better job performance, a healthier attitude, and a superior quality of life.
8. Fights Inflammation In The Body
I mentioned before that the med-diet prevents oxidation within your body and provides a ton of antioxidants through vegetables and fruits. The biggest cause of inflammation is your body’s exposure to oxidative stress. However, the high amount of antioxidants found in foods promoted by the Med-diet can seriously reduce inflammation.
This is also another reason to eat whole eggs! If you up your intake of choline, found in egg yolks and soybeans, as well as betaine, found in beetroots and spinach – you can really take advantage of the Med-diet.
9. Promotes Longevity
We should all be able to age gracefully. And not only does this way of life increase your agility as you age but it keeps you youthful too. Many mortality stats have provided us with interesting information which states that Mediterranean people live much longer, healthier lives than other parts of the world because. of their nutrition,
Not only that but spending time with friends and family gives you something to live for and enjoy, This makes you a lot happier, which in itself can make you live a longer life.
10. Improves Skin Condition
At the beginning of last year, I managed to work up an Eczema outbreak. It was awful and just could not find a way to eradicate it entirely. Until I discovered the Med-way! Any Dietician will tell you that the Mediterranean diet can transform your skin, as it does your health. One’s skin is a vital part of one’s overall happiness and well-being. Your skin is actually what shields you from the world and the Med-diet is exactly what it needs to keep your skin glowing, radiantly. Just look at how beautiful an Italian’s skin is!
This eating plan promotes lots of olive oil, which is full of vitamin E and antioxidants that work to hydrate and nourish your skin. Red wine, which you’re encouraged to drink moderately, also contains resveratrol. This can actually inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria. And tomatoes, another Mediterranean staple, helps protect skin cells – even helping prevent cancer caused by sun exposure.
11. May Increase Fertility
A few studies have shown that when women eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains – their fertility increases. Especially those ladies who have found it difficult to conceive. Of course, this is not concrete information and more scientific research is required, but, it is highly recommended that women who want to fall pregnant follow a similar eating plan to the Mediterranean diet.
Men we have not forgotten about you! You can develop healthier sperm from antioxidant-rich foods like; mangoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. It takes two to tango and this might increase your chances even more.
These are only SOME of the health benefits you can get by following a Mediterranean diet. My favourite one has got to be the way it makes me feel. Since I began following this way of life my stress levels have decreased and as a result my skin, body and moods have all improved so much.
If you’d like to start living your life this way too, then there are a few things to keep in mind.
Bread and pasta are not your ‘go-to’ dishes. You want to keep your portions small, have hefty amounts of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, moderate lean protein and healthy fats.
Many complain that this eating plan is expensive. However, when you familiarise yourself with a proper meal plan, you’ll realise how much you can actually save. You will end up eating and spending less on meat, processed and packaged goods and eating lots of legumes, canned tuna/salmon, vegetables – which you can freeze and protein.
If you’re ready to make a change, then start today!
Try making your first Med-style breakfast pancakes with my sweet potato recipe.
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