What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the diet patterns of those living in the Mediterranean region of Europe, including Spain, France, Italy, and Greece.
Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet contains high amounts of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seafood and low amounts of foods like red meats, baked goods, and candy. It is high in vitamins and minerals, fibre, heart-healthy fats, and protein and low in unhealthy fats and added sugars.
The high level of nutrients in the Mediterranean diet makes it a commonly discussed diet in the health world. Research on the Mediterranean diet suggests that it can promote heart health, help maintain a healthy weight, help manage blood sugar levels, help manage PCOS, and help maintain brain function. The Mediterranean Diet is high in polyunsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats.
What Does the Mediterranean Diet Look Like?
- The Mediterranean diet is often shown as a pyramid
- Foods recommended in small amounts, such as red meat and sweets, are in the smallest part at the top of the pyramid.
- Foods recommended in higher amounts are within larger parts of the pyramid closer to the bottom.
Seven ways to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your meals and snacks:
- Prepare foods with olive oil
Olive oil is high in unsaturated fat which promotes heart health. Swap olive oil with saturated fat sources, like butter, to reduce your saturated fat intake as saturated fat is related to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
A simple way to replace butter with olive oil is by simply cooking with olive oil instead of butter. For example, heat a pan with olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil also works well as a part of salad dressing. Create your own salad dressing by combining three parts olive oil and one part vinegar, then adding your choice of seasoning (like fresh herbs or mustard).
- Swap one higher-fat cut of meat with a lower-fat cut of meat/poultry/fish each week
Pork and beef can contain more saturated fat compared to chicken and fish. Fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, that can support brain function, fights inflammation, supports eye health, and reduces the risk of heart disease. For a more affordable source of fish, look for canned fish in the grocery store like salmon and tuna. Both salmon and tuna are great sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
When eating pork or beef, there are ways to make healthier choices:
– Choose leaner cuts of meat like pork loin, pork tenderloin, and extra lean ground beef.
– Bake, broil, or grill as cooking methods.
– Trim off some of the fat before or after cooking.
- Have nuts and seeds as snacks or in meals
Walnuts, hemp seeds, and chia seeds provide us with polyunsaturated fat and good-quality protein. Having more polyunsaturated fat in the diet can reduce the risk of age-related mental decline and heart disease. Try walnuts as a snack paired with vegetables or fruit or sprinkling hemp or chia seeds on yogurt, cereal, salad, or a smoothie.
- Replace processed grains with whole grains
Whole grains like whole grain pasta, brown rice, wild rice, or quinoa contain more fibre than processed grains like white rice and white bread. Having enough fibre helps with gut health and can help lower cholesterol. A high-fibre diet is linked with lower risks of colon cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
- Flavour foods with herbs and spices
Using herbs and spices like basil, bay leaves, garlic, pepper(s), and onion can help add flavour to foods while limiting salt intake.
- Replace a serving of meat with a serving of pulses each week
Pulses include chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, and fava beans. Pulses are a type of legume, which is a family of plants. Pulses provide us with proteins, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Some examples of meals with legumes include black bean burgers and lentil curry. Pulses can also be added to salads to make them more filling by increasing their fibre and protein content.
Dried beans cost less money for the same amount, but canned beans are much more convenient to prepare. When buying canned beans, look for options with no salt added or reduced salt. You can also rinse canned beans to reduce the amount of sodium.
- Use avocado spread in place of butter
Avocadoes are a source of vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, healthy fats, and fibre. Avocados can be used as a spread on toast or bagels in place of butter.
MVP Recipes to try:
- Mediterranean Egg Wraps
- Maple Mustard Salmon
- Chopped Vegetable Salad
- Cabbage Mushroom Stir-Fry
- Cantaloupe Cherry Smoothie
Following the Mediterranean diet is also connected with other healthy behaviours. This includes eating less food outside of the home and having a positive relationship with our body and food.