The Longest Studied Most Effective Diet Yet
Spoiler alert, it’s not really a diet
Looking for an anti-inflammatory? Weight loss? Anti-aging? Anti-diabetic and a heart-healthy diet?
You have found the right diet plan, and it has been right in front of you all along.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is the most extensively studied diet to date.
60 years of research show health benefits that include:
- Weight loss
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Decreased risk of stroke
- Improved cardiac function
- Improvements in Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Decrease risk of cancer
- Prevention of or improvement in diabetes
There are a lot of “diets” out there; many of them are just that- diets — some with extreme restrictions. The Mediterranean “diet” is a lifestyle that consists of various foods across the spectrum.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the Mediterranean diet continues to be named the best overall diet four years in a row.
Consistently backed by studies, the Mediterranean diet has taken the number one spot for best diets for diabetes, easiest diet to follow, best plant-based diet, best heart-healthy diet, and best overall diet for healthy eating.
The key to being successful at anything is sustainability and common sense. You have to look at what you can incorporate into your life that will make you feel good.
Choking down Kale, starving yourself, or doing some exercise that makes you miserable is NOT going to work!!
That doesn’t mean that sitting on the couch eating Pringles and drinking soda all day is the way to go either. What I mean is that we need to find those healthy things that we DO enjoy and start adding them into our lives.
The Mediterranean diet has enough variety that almost anyone can adopt it, especially if done gradually, which is honestly the best way to start.
Flexible and Non-Restrictive
I do not eat a Mediterranean diet 100% of the time.
I could easily convert because I love seafood, veggies, fruits, olives, pasta, and oh yes, let’s not forget the red wine.
But — can I get my husband to eat that way every day?
Nope… we need to throw in an occasional Italian sausage, hamburger, steak, some mac and cheese, a beer, and then we are good.
And I have to admit I also have weaknesses that are not in alignment with the Mediterranean lifestyle (pork roast, mashed potatoes, and gravy, with a side of green beans or corn- that is true comfort food on a cold winter day).
I just think we need to revisit this old-fashioned but somehow sexy diet and perhaps look at ways to adopt some of its fundamentals.
What is the Mediterranean Diet and Why Does It Work?
It is based on the eating habits of the southern European countries. It emphasizes plant foods, fish, poultry, olive oil, beans, nuts, and grains.
What I especially like about this diet (besides the fact I am allowed to have a glass of red wine daily) is that it is not restrictive. It encompasses all food groups including bread, pasta, fruits, veggies, meat, and seafood. It is a diet of real food. I guess, you could say it does restrict ultra-processed but overall, it does not force any agenda or “rules”.
I believe what makes this diet so effective is it addresses the reason behind so much illness and chronic disease. - Inflammation.
Lead author Cécilia Samieri, a researcher at Université Bordeaux in France, describes the outcome of a study conducted as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, “Several mechanisms may be involved, including lowering inflammation and oxidative stress, both systemically and within the central nervous system. These are two general pathways underlying many age-related chronic diseases and health conditions, such as age-related brain diseases and mental health. Other potential mechanisms include notably improving glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity”.
So Where Do You Start?
I would encourage you to go online and search for Mediterranean recipes.
-Here are some guidelines to get you going in the right direction.
- Load up on those fruits and veggies. This should make up the majority of your meals. Try to get in 7- 10 servings a day. This is where the magic happens.
- Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal, whole grain rice, and pasta. Happy gut and happy thyroid..
- Use olive oil (extra virgin olive oil) instead of butter to dip your bread into. Don’t be duped into buying adulterated poor-quality olive oil just because it is in a pretty bottle. Do your research and buy a good quality olive oil. You can add garlic, red pepper flakes, a little Parmesan cheese (get creative). Olive oil contains anti-inflammatory substances. This is good!! Remember, inflammation is the driver of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, metabolic disease, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis.
- Add more fish to the menu. At least once but preferably twice a week. Especially the cold-water fish- Salmon, Mackerel, sardines, herring. Don’t wrinkle up your nose until you have tried it, and grill on foil on the barby for easy cleanup and keeping the smell outside.
- Start experimenting with herbs. Pick up some fresh, or better yet, try growing your own. Herbs and spices can pack a punch of flavor while cutting back on salt.
- Nuts are a great snack but don’t overdo it as they have a lot of calories. ¼ cup should satisfy without adding inches to your waistline — a handful of almonds or walnuts with a small piece of dark chocolate. Oh yes, please.. (Read about the fantastic health benefits of walnuts here).
Walnuts Reign Supreme
Walnuts Have Amazing Health Benefits — Here is what you should know
Here is a sample meal plan:
- Fresh strawberries and blueberries with some plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey. Stay away from pre-sweetened yogurt as it is loaded with sugar, and please do not opt for the ‘Light’ as they usually contain aspartame or other artificial sweeteners that will wreak havoc on your gut health and stimulate your appetite, increase cravings, and actually cause weight gain. When you use honey, you are controlling the amount of sweetness and getting all wonderful health benefits that honey has to offer. I must warn you though, you are wasting your money if you are buying your honey from the grocery store. They process it at extremely high temperatures, dilute it, filter it, and much of it comes from China. Please support your local beekeeper and buy your honey locally.
- 1 hardboiled egg, ½ grapefruit or an orange, 1 piece of toast with avocado or just a drizzle of olive oil.
- Avocado toast with a slice of tomato, salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and squirt of lime juice.
Oh, sweet mother..
- Mixed greens with tomato, cucumber, and tuna fish. Drizzle with olive oil and apple cider or red wine vinegar. Fresh dill, mint, or basil is good with a liberal sprinkle of black pepper.
- ½ sweet potato with black beans seasoned with cumin, salt, and pepper, drizzled with some plain Greek yogurt. Recipe
- Leftover grilled chicken with tzatziki and a side of sliced tomatoes and some grapes.
- Cut up veggies with hummus and pita.
- Chicken or turkey wrap- think mozzarella, basil, fresh greens, hummus and some lemony couscous. Check this recipe out..
- Tuna salad– try using avocado instead of mayo or just drizzle in olive oil and lemon juice for a lighter variation to old-fashioned ho-hum tuna.
- Chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce, sliced tomatoes, Pita bread
- Tuna Nicoise salad
- Grilled eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes drizzled with spicy chili oil or one of these Mediterranean sauces and a side of brown rice or couscous
- Grilled Salmon with a warm tomato olive salad
- A steaming bowl of Mediterranean pasta made with bacon, artichokes, herbs, and feta cheese.
- Grilled lamb chops with a lovely garbanzo bean, feta, cucumber salad
This just gives you some ideas but start experimenting with those taste buds and have a little fun. Not only is this kind of diet healthy and tasty, but it can be very easy as well, which is something we could all use a little more of, right?
Also, this ‘diet/lifestyle’ is also based on providing high-energy nutritious food to hard-working peasant farmers and fishermen. Most of us today have jobs that demand a lot of sitting. So, you will want to add some physical fitness and increase your activity. Also, go easy on high-calorie foods like nuts and olive oil. They are nutritionally dense, and a little goes a long way.
To make things a little easier for you, I have developed this Printable PDF Mediterranean Grocery List. All you have to do is go down the list and pick what you and your family like and check the box. Next time you go to the grocery store, just add 1 -3 items from your list and add them to your menu. Pick one recipe from the sample list or one you have found on Google and make just that one meal next week. Maybe the following week add 2 of these meals. When planning your menu, pull out this checklist and build some of your meals around these ingredients.
As a side note, I use the Plan to Eat App, which has changed my life. I could not live without it now. There is a small annual fee, but it does everything. I can import recipes with a built-in extension, plan my meals, and automatically create my shopping list. That is just scraping the surface of what it can do.
But I digress.
Free Printable Mediterranean Grocery List
Print this free Printable PDF Mediterranean Grocery List right now. Take it with you next time you go to the grocery store!
If you start incorporating components of this “diet” into your life I would love to know how it is working for you. Do you have any recipes to share? Please let me know.
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