What is the Mediterranean diet? Many of us have heard of this diet, but don’t know exactly what it includes. When it comes to the Mediterranean diet, there isn’t a specific meal plan to follow, but rather guidelines and key foods to include in your daily life.
Since the Mediterranean is a large area and consists of many countries with various cultures, a single definition is difficult. Focusing on the traditional diet of the Mediterranean region, pre-1960, this diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, unrefined grains, legumes, fish and olive oil. A key idea in the diet is to consume healthy fats and a low consumption of red meat, poultry and dairy products. Low to moderate intake of wine is acceptable with these meals. The Mediterranean diet has a food pyramid that places whole grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, olive oil and nuts in the largest section at the bottom. These foods are suggested to be included with every meal. The next section contains fish and seafood and is suggested to be eaten often, at least twice a week.
Next, eggs, poultry and cheese should be consumed moderately. The tip of the pyramid contains meats and sweets that should be eaten less often. The pyramid and the guidelines for a Mediterranean diet emphasize plant-based foods, healthy fats from olive oil and nuts instead of butter, eating fish and poultry at least twice a week and limited red meat. The diet also suggests using herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt. Lastly, the diet recognizes the importance of being physically active.
The Mediterranean diet can help a large number of people improve their health, especially cardiovascular health. The nutrients in the foods suggested by the diet are the main reason people see improvements. The diet calls for whole, natural, healthy foods that a lot of Americans today aren’t consuming enough of. Enjoying a nice juicy cheeseburger is a staple in a lot of American’s diets, but if they were to follow the Mediterranean diet, that cheeseburger should only be consumed in moderation, maybe once a month. Instead, Americans should be consuming more seafood such as salmon, tuna and shellfish with large sides of vegetables, fruits or whole grains. Americans shouldn’t be afraid to include a decent amount of fat in their diets as long as the fat is coming from better sources, like nuts and olive oil instead of fried foods and red meats.
Try grilling a salmon fillet with a marinade of basil, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and black pepper. The fish should be cooked until opaque in color and a thermometer reads 145F degrees. When finished, garnish with green olives and lemon slices. Pair this salmon with a beet and walnut salad. This salad can include, beets, apples, salad greens, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese. The dressing can be made up of red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Both recipes and more are easy to find online or in cookbooks and provide all the ingredients and directions you need to get started. Both of these recipes are full of health benefits and are recommended in the Mediterranean diet.