The Mediterranean Diet should be categorized as a ‘lifestyle diet’ where literally a wide variety of good tastes meets good health.
Mediterranean diet means inclusion of natural foods that grow or are available naturally in the mediterranean region - thus includes servings of whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes and flavorful herbs and spices; + foods that contain high amounts of fiber; + meals may also include healthy fish or seafood;
Mediterranean foods are made in a traditional and healthy cooking style – and an additional dash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine both widely available in the mediterranean region just adds up to it's famous healthy lifestyle quotient;
Mediterranean diet primarily includes plenty of plant based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts;
Mediterranean diet includes or replaces butter with healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil; Mediterranean diet includes eating fish at least twice a week;
Mediterranean diet includes using herbs and spices instead of salt and sugar to flavor foods; Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle diet and insists that you stay active and get plenty of exercise; Mediterranean culture also recognizes the importance of social eating and encourages enjoying meals with family and friends.
Moderate intake of dairy products (mostly cheese or yogurt); + Moderate amount of wine;
Adopting Mediterranean lifestyle means eat very little red meat and average nine servings a day of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables.
Vegetables common across Mediterranean region include the healthy leafy greens arugula, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach; Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage; the orange yellow purple - carrots, eggplant, peppers, pumpkin; Red, pink, white or green vegetables like tomatoes, radishes, red onions, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, zucchini and cucumber;
Fruits common to the Mediterranean Diet include: tomatoes, avocados, olives, mandarins, grapes, figs, pomegranates, melons, strawberries, pears, apples…
Diet full of many servings of colored fruits and vegetables helps reduce oxidative stress being rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids and carotenoids.
Mediterranean countries share a long coastline and fish is a staple part of the Mediterranean diet. Opt for tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring; Avoid fried fish as it loses much of it's nutrient value;
Tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, and sardines apart from being a good source of protein - contain the much essential omega 3 fats that are heart healthy and also excellent for the brain and joints;
Mediterranean Diet contain high fat foods like olive oil (which is almost 100% fat), nuts (which are usually 50+% fat), and fish (which are often about 12+% fat). Avocado is also rich in monounsaturated fats.
The focus of the Mediterranean diet is on making smart choices about the types of fat you eat. The Mediterranean diet features olive oil as the primary source of fat and especially the extra virgin type that is rich in antioxidants; Healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil helps lower LDL cholesterol levels;
Whole grain bread or pasta is an important part of the Mediterranean diet – and in the Mediterranean region, bread is either eaten plain or dipped in olive oil and not with butter or margarine; Whole grains traditionally found in the mediterranean region include barley, wheat, kamut, spelt, bulgur and corn.
Good source of vegetarian protein foods in the Mediterranean diet includes lentils, beans as they provide protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber content. Nuts and seeds also deliver protein and healthy fat calories.
You could amp up the protein content with whole grains like quinoa and vegetables with considerable amounts of protein like spinach, beet and mustard greens, green peas brussels sprouts and broccoli. View the Protein chart detailed by Whfood.com
Mediterranean diet recommends fish as the preferred animal protein at least twice weekly and other animal proteins of poultry, eggs, and dairy (cheese or yogurt) in smaller portions sparingly in a week.
Nuts are integral part of a healthy Mediterranean diet though high in fat, do note that - most of the fat is healthy; Opt for only a handful a day and avoid candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts. Try natural peanut butter or tahini (has sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for bread;
A healthy Mediterranean diet includes nutty snacks - A handful of almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts make for a quick and energetic snack;
Season your meals with herbs and spices as they are rich in nutrients and antioxidants; Herbs have phytonutrients that are anti-inflammatory and help prevent and manage heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Research indicates that Garlic, fenugreek, lemongrass may help lower cholesterol. Garlic is beneficial for people with mildly elevated blood pressure. Fenugreek, flaxseeds and cinnamon are known to help control blood sugar and insulin activity; Garlic, onions, chives, leeks, mint, basil, oregano, sage can help protect against cancer.
Fresh herbs are healthier and often contain higher antioxidant levels compared to processed or dried herbs. Opt to use fresh herbs at the end of cooking so you may preserve their properties.
Herbs and spices are rich in antioxidants, especially cloves, cinnamon, sage, oregano and thyme - as they help in reducing LDL or low-density lipoproteins or what is popularly known as ‘bad’ cholesterol'.
Consumption of red wine is regular part of the Mediterranean diet especially in Italy,
Amount of Red Wine in Mediterranean diet
Women - The Mediterranean diet typically includes a moderate amount of wine and this about 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine daily for women under age 65;
Men - 10 ounces (296 milliliters) of wine daily for men under age 65;
Seniors - 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine daily for senior men and women over age 65;
Source: Red Wine and Resveratrol: Good for your heart? by Mayoclinic.org
Source: Mediterranean Way of Drinking and Longevity by National Library of Medicine
Drinking more wine than recommended may actually increase the risk of health problems, including increased risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
A traditional Mediterranean diet may serve a few servings a week of cheese or yogurt - especially the the less processed ones like feta or part-skim mozzarella or plain greek yogurt...
Milk is not traditionally part of a Mediterranean diet - if you enjoy it than consider replacing it with unsweetened almond or soy milk, as legumes and nuts are staples of the Mediterranean diet. Opt for ice cream / gelato as an occasional treat, and do review the portion size.
Do not use cooking methods that need very high temperatures so you can protect unique nutrients and antioxidants found in olive oil and vegetables and fruits - as phytonutrients are heat sensitive.
Opt for raw meals or lightly steamed veggies with drizzled olive oil or healthy sautéed vegetables or use olive oil in preparing salad dressings.
Toss together -
1/4 cup each of sliced red bell peppers, zucchini,
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms (or lightly stir-fried),
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans,
1/4 cup cooked green peas,
Any leafy greens, sun dried tomatoes, pitted black olives, torn basil leaves,
You may include some pasta cooked al dente
Or fish of your choice;
Dressing would be - a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, plus crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice plus salt to taste;
Mediterranean Dressing is an easy one minute preparation; Whisk 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 clove garlic crushed, sea salt and pepper to taste;
Easy to prepare as has ingredients available in most homes;
Toss together chopped tomatoes (large pieces), sliced thin onions, (any other vegetables that you enjoy peppers, zucchini, olives) minced garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, torn basil leaves, Sea salt and pepper to taste; optionally can add cottage cheese or mozzarella cheese plus chopped olives;