By Florencia Tagliavini, Nutritionist
Image by Namely Marly
The Mediterranean diet has been one of the most extensively researched diets or eating patterns in relation to health, disease prevention, and treatment. Numerous studies show that this eating pattern can aid in weight loss, reduce levels of inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and all around mortality.
For these reasons, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adopt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for the prevention of major chronic diseases and healthy aging.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
It's not necessarily a diet but a style or pattern of healthy eating habits based on the traditional eating habits of Mediterranean coastal fishing villages. It's characterized by consumption of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and red wine, with smaller amounts of fish, chicken, eggs, whole fat dairy, and very little red meat. It also emphasizes eating fresh foods, cooking at home, and enjoying relaxing mealtimes with family or friends.
In terms of nutrition, the Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols and is a source of heart-healthy fats, including a good ratio of omega 3/6 fatty acids. It's also defined by being low in sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats, sugar and processed foods that include chemical additives.
How to adopt this eating pattern
Focus on what to include instead of what to limit. Try to incorporate one of these guidelines at a time. It should not feel like a diet. Take it slowly, enjoy, and before you know it, you´ll be living the Mediterranean lifestyle.
- Eat primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
- Make olive oil your main source of fat. Use butter sparingly.
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
- If you eat animal products - Eat fish often; eggs, poultry and/or dairy less often; limit red meat
- Avoid processed and refined foods as well as sweets, sodas, and juices.
- Enjoy meals with family and friends.
- Drink red wine in moderation (optional).
- Get plenty of exercise.