- By Deanna Segrave-Daly
- In 2019
- May 22, 2019
Embracing the Mediterranean Diet
May is National Mediterranean Diet Month. This popular style of eating was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the Best Overall Diet for 2019. In addition, it was also given the titles of Best Diet for Healthy Eating, Easiest Diet to Follow, Best Diet for Diabetes, Best Heart Healthy Diet, and Best Plant-Based Diet.1
Origin of the Mediterranean Diet
After ranking the top diet in so many categories, you are probably wondering what makes this style of eating so beneficial. The Mediterranean Diet has been evolving for over 5,000 years, originating in the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, primarily Greece and Italy.2 After gaining global popularity in the 1940s and 50s, this diet became a more traditional style of eating in the United States due to its simplicity and health benefits.
Components of the Mediterranean Diet
This “diet” is not necessarily seen as a typical diet, it is more of a lifestyle choice that can be easily maintained throughout time. It focuses on core foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, herbs and spices, nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil daily, as well as two servings per week of fish or seafood. It also incorporates modest servings of dairy and poultry, and less frequent servings of red meats and refined foods with added sugars.3 Wine may also be consumed on occasion, as it is known for its antioxidant properties benefitting the heart.
The health benefits associated with this diet are abundant and have been proven through many research studies. By combining a variety of foods with bountiful nutritive characteristics, along with exercise and eating mindfully with family and friends, one may see benefits such as3:
- Lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular mortality from heart disease
- Weight loss or weight maintenance
- Reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Reduced risk of developing certain types of Cancer
- Improved brain function
- Improved eyesight
- Increased longevity of life
- Increased joint relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis
How You Can Bring the Mediterranean Diet to Your Life3
- Fill at least half of your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables- By doing this, your body will be getting several different vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber.
- Eat smaller portions of red meat, less frequently- Red meat contains a large amount of protein, however, it also provides saturated fat, also known as the “unhealthy fat” that causes plaque build-up in our arteries. If you choose to consume red meat, look for the leanest cut possible.
- Don’t forget dairy- Try Greek Yogurt for an added boost of protein and calcium (about 15g per 6-ounce serving), low-fat milk and smaller amounts of low-fat cheeses.
- Include seafood at least twice a week- Choose lean and heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acid rich fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and shellfish such as mussels, oysters, and clams.
- Try a Meatless Monday- Go one day without animal products by building meals around whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables, enhanced by herbs and spices. Once this becomes a habit, try it out for two days per week for added nutrition.
- Go for the Good Fats- Replace butter with foods containing omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are low in saturated fats and have protective effects on our hearts. You can find these in foods such as nuts, peanuts, seeds, olives and olive oils, and avocados.
- Make Half Your Grains Whole Grains- Whole grains provide protein, fiber, and B vitamins that will keep your body satisfied longer after a meal than refined white flour. Include products made with whole wheat flours, or try something more traditional to the Mediterranean region like quinoa, farro, bulgur, kamut or brown rice.
- Rethink Your Drink- Hydrate yourself with beverages such as water, unsweetened teas, or coffee instead of options like soda and sugar-sweetened drinks.
Lyndi Wieand, RDN, LDN is the Lehigh Valley Regional In-Store Dietitian at Weis Markets, a family-owned and -operated supermarket chain with 200 stores in the mid-Atlantic region. She serves as the Secretary for the Lehigh Valley Dietetics Association, and is a Certified Group Lifestyle Balance Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program. Connect with her on LinkedIn page.