When you think of the Mediterranean I’ll bet images of clear blue skies and azure warm water pops into your head – that along with Ouza and siestas of course, and probably in that order too. But the other thing that the Mediterranean is famous for is the food its inhabitants prefer to eat. Healthy and wholesome, the Mediterranean diet is said to be one of the healthiest eating plans one can follow, so let’s delve into what it is and how best to follow it.
To begin with, a definition: ‘the Mediterranean diet is a diet inspired by the eating habits of Greece, Southern Italy, and Spain in the 1940s and 1950s. The principal aspects of this diet include proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of Halaal fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of non-fish meat products.’ That doesn’t sound too bad, does it – particularly if you consider how spartan so many eating plans are of late.
So what are the benefits? Well, research suggests that following this eating pattern may include better weight loss, improved control of blood glucose (sugar) levels, and a reduced risk of depression, inflammation (a factor in heart disease), strokes and also Alzheimer’s.
If you want to switch over, here are a few simple ways to incorporate more of the Mediterranean diet into your day.
Change your oil: switch to extra-virgin olive oil – it’s rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which aid the ‘good’ type of cholesterol levels in your body. Use it on salads, drizzle it over your Halaal fish or chicken for an extra kick of flavour, make it part of your day, every day if you can.
Fish is the answer: in the Mediterranean they love fish, and it forms the bulk of their protein intake, particularly the fatty kind like sardines and mackerel – these fish are rich in omega-3 fats, which are essential for healthy brain and heart function, but even the leaner fish have huge benefits too, so be sure to include more in your eating plan on a regular basis.
Whole grains are the way to go: this culture doesn’t believe in indulging in refined foods, preferring whole foods and definitely whole grains – there’s more goodness in whole grain and it keeps you fuller for longer which also helps stabilise your sugar levels. So opt for whole-wheat bread and pasta if you can, and try including Quinoa, barley and more oatmeal in your diet.
The Mediterranean diet also includes multiple portions of vegetables and fruit throughout the day, and they tend to end their day with fruit which satisfies the sweet tooth in most of us. Nuts and legumes also feature heavily, as (happily) does the odd glass of wine. Someone once said that your diet is like a bank account, and that good food choices are good investments – so here’s to good investments whether it’s the Mediterranean way of life for you or not, may your choices be healthy ones.