Eating Secrets From the Mediterranean

From EatingWell Magazine

Researchers have been studying the Mediterranean diet for decades, and mounting evidence, including several large, reliable studies, suggests that following a Mediterranean-style diet may help your health. This eating pattern—which involves eating plenty of produce, fish, olive oil and whole grains, and reducing red meat and dairy—has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Rather than try to switch your diet all at once, an easy way to start moving toward more of a Mediterranean-style diet is to add some of these key foods to your meals and snacks. 

Olive oil

Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Make olive oil your primary “fat” for cooking and baking and swap it in for butter—which is full of saturated fat—whenever you can.

Nuts

Nuts play a significant role in Mediterranean-style diets. To incorporate peanuts and tree nuts (think: walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts), which are packed with heart-healthy fats, into your diet, try trading your afternoon snack for a (small) handful of nuts (remember: they’re calorie-dense) or sprinkle them on top of your favorite yogurt or a salad.   

Fish

The Mediterranean-style diet involves eating at least two servings of fish or shellfish weekly. Aim to add fish of any kind into your weekly regimen, but if you can, choose oily fish, such as salmon or tuna, which are rich in those heart-healthy omega-3 fats. And remember to stick with fish prepared using healthy cooking methods, such as fish that are grilled or baked, rather than fried.

Legumes

Legumes include beans, peas and lentils. They’re a great source of protein, and make for a good replacement for meat. But they also count as a vegetable because they deliver fiber and nutrients, such as folate and potassium, that you’d find in other vegetables. A good goal is to aim for three or more servings of legumes per week.

Fresh fruits

Fruits, including natural—or 100 percent—fruit juices, are also an important part of the Mediterranean diet. Aim for 2 to 3 or more fruit servings daily. If you’re going to drink 100 percent juice to up your fruit intake, try and cap it at 8 to 12 ounces daily. Otherwise, you can add fruit to your diet in many ways: mix it into a salad or oatmeal, top your yogurt with fruit or just snack on it plain.

Fresh vegetables

Vegetables of all kinds are part of the Mediterranean diet. Aim for 2 to 3 or more servings of vegetables each day—and if you can, aim for at least one serving of that to be raw vegetables or a salad. Start your day out by adding vegetables to an omelet and have a bowl of vegetable soup or a salad (both of which are great ways to pack in several vegetable servings) for lunch or dinner. 

“White meat”

The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes very low amounts of red meat and processed meat—only a few servings a month. If you eat meat, aiming to swap out some servings of red meat for healthier “white meats” such as chicken or turkey, which can help you stick with a more Mediterranean diet.

Wine

Mediterranean-diet followers generally consume wine with meals. Research suggests that for those who drink alcohol, consuming no more than one glass of wine a day for women and two for men may benefit heart health. Red or white, it may not matter. 

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