Why do we hear so much about the Mediterranean diet? Doctors often suggest to their patients that they get on the Mediterranean diet to improve their heart health. An eight-year, multi-center study evaluating various diets found that the Mediterranean-style of eating resulted in a 30 percent reduction in heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths, a 40 percent reduction in type 2 diabetes, and a 62 percent reduction in breast cancer! This is why so many doctors are embracing the Mediterranean diet.
What foods are featured in a Mediterranean diet that might protect you from chronic diseases?
- Healthy fats:
- Extra-virgin olive oil for just about everything - cooking, baking, in dressings
- Olives, especially Kalamata, to add to dishes and for flavoring
- Nuts, including almonds, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts
- Avocadoes and avocado oil
- Unrefined wheat for breads, couscous and pasta
- Sourdough breads
- Dandelion, kale, spinach, mustard, etc.
- Chickpeas or garbanzo beans
- Garlic, fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs
There is no secret to the Mediterranean diet, but a prominent feature is that foods and meals are made from scratch, and the family eats together in a leisurely fashion. Time is taken to prepare the meal, and then to enjoy it with good conversation.
There is meat served but only a few times a week, so most meals are plant-based but very flavorful because of the olive oil, herbs, capers, lemon juice, and garlic so generously used.
How could your meals become more Mediterranean-style?
Lunch might be homemade hummus made with chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic, and crusty sourdough bread or a hearty cannellini bean soup with seasonal salad.
Dinner might be a seasonal vegetable stew with a kale salad or pasta with marinara sauce and layered eggplant-squash casserole.
Recipes to try:
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.