Try it Mediterranean Style
The Medical Community’s Favorite Diet
“Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) choloesterol — the ‘bad’ cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries” ~ The Mayo Clinic
When I asked my sister, a medical student, what her take was on diet and nutrition she said more or less,
“We don’t understand food’s effect on the body very well, but a Mediterranean diet is recommended.”
Now this was a somewhat unsatisfactory answer from a future doctor, on a topic that I feel is the most important factor in our health — our daily choices of what we eat. Maybe it is due to the fact that our society focuses more on fixing humans after something goes wrong rather than setting us up for smooth operation beforehand, but I’ll let the topic of preventative vs. diagnostic care live to die another day.
The Mediterranean diet has an undeniably strong scientific backing. The diet has been found to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Midwestern firefighters — a group prone to obesity and risk factors for CVD, and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 52%.
This is certainly good news, but it comes as no shock that low-fat diets of the past were flawed in their claims. The popularization of low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diets has tilted the scale of popular opinion in recent years towards healthy fats and oils and whole foods. The Mediterranean diet seems to settle in somewhere in the middle — a high fat, moderate carb, moderate protein diet easy enough to recommend and with strong literature behind it. The fact that red meats are minimized, but not cut out completely, also means it doesn’t offend anyone who grew up eating flesh and makes those family gatherings much more comfortable than having to explain where vegetarians get their protein from (soy is a complete protein for starters).
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The diet is traditionally made of fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, and fish and only small amounts of red meat. Olive oil is also important as it doesn’t have the saturated fats of butter or margarine, and whole grains are preferred. Nuts are to be included as well, but should not be eaten in large amounts resulting in caloric excess.
Dishes are such as:
- whole grain bread, olive oil, olives, tomatoes, and cheese
- pasta with garbanzo beans and spinach
- grilled salmon with lemon, basil, garlic and parsley
- caprese salad
- charred eggplant and tahini spread
- kale, cannellini and farro stew
When choosing meals and shopping for groceries, the focus should be on the vegetables, selecting a colorful variety and only eating fish a few times a week and red meat a few times a month.
If consistently eating fish, be wary of the type and source it comes from. Fish high in mercury such as albacore tuna, king mackerel, halibut and swordfish generally should not be eaten more than 3 times a month.
If you’re interested in cutting meat and poultry completely, then check out our Pescetarian guide. If you liked this short guide and would like more of he same, recommend it to a friend!