Mediterranean Diet: A Guide For Beginners

If you are looking for a diet that is healthy for your heart, then the Mediterranean diet is perfect for you. The Mediterranean diet consists of basic healthy dishes and other things like delicious olive oil and red wine are also included. This diet is identified by traditional style of cooking in countries close to Mediterranean Sea.

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Like most healthy diets, this diet includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish. But some more foods may be included to decrease the risk of heart disease.

 Advantages of Mediterranean Diet

According to research, the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces risk of heart disease. The diet is known for low level of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. The “bad” cholesterol gets deposited in your arteries.

A research was conducted on more than one million healthy adults and it was found that Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular diseases and increased lifespan.

Mediterranean diet also reduces the risk of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Cancer. It was found that those women who had a Mediterranean diet and supplemented it with extra virgin olive oil and mixed nuts had a reduced risk of breast cancer.

This is why most scientific organisations suggest that healthy adults should adopt Mediterranean diet for preventing chronic diseases.

 Mediterranean Diet Components

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The emphasis of Mediterranean diet is:-

  • Eat primarily plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and nuts.
  • Butter may be replaced with healthy fats like canola oil and olive oil.
  • Foods may be flavored with herbs and spices instead of salts.
  • Intake of red meat may be reduced to only few times in a month.
  • One should eat fish and poultry at least twice in a week.
  • Enjoying your meals with friends and family
  • You should consume red wine in moderation
  • Get lots of exercise.

The traditional foods that are included in Mediterranean diet are fruits, rice, pasta and vegetables. Eg. The amount of red meat consumed by the residents of Greece is very little as compared to nine servings of antioxidant rich vegetables and fruits.

Usually, the Mediterranean region is rich in whole grains and has low Trans fats. Bread is an important part of the diet in Mediterranean region. In this region, bread is eaten either plain or by dipping in olive oil.

Another great part of healthy Mediterranean diet are nuts. Nuts are rich in fat (80 percent of calorie intake comes from fat). But the fat content in nuts is not saturated. As they are high in calories, the nuts should not be taken in high amounts. Only handful of nuts should be eaten in a day.

 

Intake Healthy Fats

One should not limit total fat intake in a Mediterranean diet but should make wise decisions about the types of fat that you consume. In Mediterranean diet, it is discouraged to consume saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (Trans fats). Both of these lead to heart disease.

The primary source of fat in a Mediterranean diet is olive oil. Olive oil is a good source of monosaturated fats. This kind of fat can reduce LDL cholesterol levels.

The least processed forms of olive oils i.e. “Extra virgin” and “virgin” contain highest levels of protective plant compounds that act as antioxidants.

The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like canola oil and nuts are full of linoleic acid (which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid). The omega-3 fatty acids help in lowering triglycerides, decreasing blood clotting and help in lowering the chances of sudden heart attack. They improve the health of blood vessels and help in moderate blood pressure.

Fatty fishes like mackerel, herring, lake trout, albacore tuna, sardines and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In Mediterranean diet, fish is a staple food.

 

Intake Wine

A moderate amount of wine is a part of Mediterranean diet. Which means only 5 ounces (148 millilitres) of wine for women daily and not greater than 10 ounces of daily wine for men under age 65.

 

What to avoid?

One should avoid these unhealthy ingredients and foods:-

  • Sugar: Candies, ice cream, soda, table sugar etc.
  • Refined Grains: Pasta, white bread prepared with refined wheat.
  • Trans fats: It is found in processed foods and margarine.
  • Refined oils: Canola oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil etc.
  • Processed meat: like hot dogs, sausages etc.
  • Highly processed foods: Like “low-fat” or “diet” food.

 

Sample Menu of Mediterranean Diet for 1 Week:-

 Here is a sample menu of Mediterranean diet for one week.

 Monday

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Raisins and Oatmeal
  • Lunch: Leftover tuna salad
  • Dinner: Salad with ingredients like olives, tomatoes and feta cheese.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Omelette containing onions, tomatoes and veggies. A piece of fruit.
  • Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich with fresh vegetables and cheese.
  • Dinner: Mediterranean lasagne

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Yogurt, sliced fruits and nuts.
  • Lunch: Lasagne that is leftover from previous night.
  • Dinner: Broiled salmon served with vegetables and brown rice.

Friday

  • Breakfast: Vegetables and eggs, fried in olive oil.
  • Lunch: Greek yogurt and nuts, strawberries and oats.
  • Dinner: Baked Potato, salad and grilled lamb.

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with apple, nuts and raisins.
  • Lunch: Whole-grain sandwich and vegetables
  • Dinner: Mediterranean pizza prepared with whole wheat and topped with cheese, olives and vegetables.

Sunday

  • Breakfast: Omelet with olives and veggies.
  • Lunch: Leftover pizza
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken with potato and vegetables. Fruit as dessert.

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