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Do You Want to Get Started on the Mediterranean Diet?
Wheat pasta and eggplant in a white bowl
3.What is a Meal Plan like?
4.Are there any Concerns?
History of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean region is the body of lands that surround the Mediterranean Sea. This area includes 22 different countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The primary countries considered as the Mediterranean cuisine, however, are Greek and Italian. However, foods from Spain to Turkey to Israel all fit the profile as well. The diet became more well-known during the 1950s and 60s after a scientist named Ancel Keys conducted a fifteen-year study across seven nations. This study found that people who ate what he coined the ‘Mediterranean diet’ had lower cardiovascular deaths than the US despite having similar cholesterol levels.
The study found that countries in the region consumed less dairy, fewer saturated fats and more fruits, vegetables, and nuts than the other countries studied. This led to further research in Finland, Spain, and Greece to further verify the results of Key’s study. In Finland and Greece, those that switched to the dietary plan had a decrease in their BMI as well as lowered rates of death due to cardiovascular issues. There was also a marked decrease of lung and breast cancer rates in Finland’s trial study compared to the rest of the population.
Colorful fruits within two heart shaped fruit bowls
Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Research has provided promising evidence for the many health benefits associated with the Mediterranean Diet. The first most touted health benefit is a decreased risk of heart disease. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. Studies have shown that following the diet showed an overall decrease in mortality rates. Incidences of decreased instances of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia have also been reported. Elderly people who follow the diet have a longer lifespan than those who do not. Because of the foods associated, the Mediterranean diet reduces inflammation and “oxidative stress”, a crucial factor in the development of chronic diseases. Healthy fats are associated with increased cognitive health and those following the diet saw a 40% risk reduction in cognitive decline. People with certain health issues can benefit from following the Mediterranean diet as well. Diabetics can control their blood sugar levels. It helps reduce the need for treatment and insulin.
Middle-aged people may benefit the most from the Mediterranean Diet. According to research, those who adopted the diet lived longer and healthier lives. It reduced their chances of cognitive decline and chronic diseases as a whole. This is partly due to the low levels of processed foods and sugars present in the diet. Increased intake of fruits and vegetables overall positively correlates with a healthier lifestyle.
Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
There is no such thing as a singular Mediterranean Diet. The many countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea eat similar cuisines. The most popular cuisines tend to be Greek and Italian. However, there are plenty of other countries in the region which exemplify the diet’s lifestyle. Spain’s traditional cuisine focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. They are also known as the world’s main producer of olive oil and is one of the healthiest countries in the world. Israel is also in the top ten healthiest countries. The Israeli cuisine focuses on plant-based foods with a lot of nuts and legumes as well as a variety of salads. Even the dips are plant-based such as tahini, one of the key ingredients in hummus.
Followers of the Mediterranean Diet clarify that the particular lifestyle is not a restrictive eating plan. Instead, it is considered a way of life meant to promote healthier living. According to Mediterranean Diet For All, the word ‘diet’ constituted the entire dietary needs and habits of regular people. Unlike other diets, such as the Keto Diet or the Paleo Diet, this one does not focus on restriction. It is instead considered a lifestyle change that incorporates more fruits and vegetables into one’s diet. People on the Mediterranean Diet can follow it as strict or as loosely as they want. However, it should be noted that closer adherence to this lifestyle increases the health benefits compared to those who are more relaxed. The diet consists of several key factors and most of your meals should consist of the following main foods:
Hummus on a white plate with olive oil and seeds
This doesn’t mean focusing solely on leafy greens and fruits. You can also incorporate whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice and pasta. Add in some legumes and nuts for extra fat and protein. You want to eat as fresh and clean as possible. This means shopping for locally grown veggies and keeping things simple. No need to go out and splurge on “exotic” foods! Stock up on your leafy greens like kale and spinach. Indulge in cabbage and broccoli. Substitute carrots and celery for your dips. They are super versatile. You can sauté them, grill them, eat them raw, or even steamed. With so many options, it’s easy to add them to each and every one of your meals. Keep some room for desert—fruits make a great healthy option when you’re craving something sweet.
Seafood should be the second most eaten food in your meals. Choose super healthy fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Any fish will do, but you’ll want to choose the most nutrient dense. Mollusks are also a good choice, such as clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, and octopus. Shellfish, like shrimp and lobster, are also a good choice to incorporate into your meals.
If you’re wondering about red and white meats, these should be consumed in limited quantities. White meat, like poultry, can be eaten in moderation. Once a week seems to be the usual trend. Red meat should be consumed even less than that.
Beans, lentils, and nuts are also a good source of protein and healthy fats. Chickpeas can be made into hummus for a super healthy, protein-packed dip that you can eat with your veggies. Or perhaps you would prefer an even more protein-rich meal and combine them with eggs.
Olive oil, tomatoes and basil on a table
Nuts and legumes are not the only sources of healthy fats you can eat. The Mediterranean Diet encourages the use of olive oil in all cooking. In fact, it’s the primary source of heart-healthy fat. Try not to use processed oils such as vegetable oils and keep use Extra Virgin Olive Oil as much as possible. Get some good whole wheat bread and dip it into some olive oil instead of butter.
Though the diet is low in dairy, cheese and yogurt are traditional parts of a Mediterranean diet. Common cheeses are brie, feta, and ricotta among others. Indulge in your favorite Greek yogurt which is high in protein and is a good source of calcium. It also contains probiotics which are important for gut health.
Herbs & Spices
You’ll have a different sort of flavor profile when you cook your meals Mediterranean style. Certain culinary herbs show promising evidence of health benefits that can increase the overall healthful effects of this diet. Consider herbs and spices such as, coriander, cumin, capers, and oregano, just to name a few. These have shown antioxidant properties and are part of the reason why this diet is especially important for middle-aged people.
There has been some controversy on the health benefits of wine. However, if you enjoy a glass of wine every now and then, make sure it’s red wine. A glass of red wine may help lower cholesterol levels. As with anything, don’t overdo it and restrict yourself to one glass a day with dinner. If you don’t care much for alcohol, drinking a glass of pomegranate or grapefruit juice with no sugar added can make a good substitute.
Woman stretching outdoors in an open field
Off Limit Foods
As said previously, the Mediterranean Diet is not restrictive. It doesn’t require a food list to stick to. Unlike in the Keto diet, you won’t be in or out of ketosis if you decide you want a chocolate chip cookie once in a while. One of the most important parts of the Mediterranean Diet food pyramid isn’t actually a food group at all. It is exercise and family, friendly activities. Eat with others instead of in front of the television, take a walk with a friend, and be as active as you can. This approach is all about mindful eating. The reason so many people overeat is because they are often eating too quickly or not paying attention to what they are putting in their mouths. Eating with family members can stop you from eating so quickly. That helps you listen to your body when it signals that you’re full. Similarly, when you have someone else to exercise with, you’re more likely to do so. The Mediterranean Diet really only discourages processed foods and unhealthy fats. However, if you decide to indulge a little on the rare occasion, it isn’t the end of the world. The most important thing is to eat in moderation and focus on natural foods.
Are There Any Concerns?
While overall the diet has been said to be healthy, there are some concerns. The biggest concern with the diet plan is that unlike the Paleo or Keto diets, there is no specific Mediterranean Diet. It crosses the cultures of 22 different countries, from Spain to Israel. Some even state that it’s all just hype from outdated information. Greece and Italy, the two countries most associated with the Mediterranean diet, don’t eat as many whole grains as one would think. A lot of the traditional cuisine has been phased out of their diet for more convenient foods.
The number one concern about the diet is its high-fat content. Some even have concerns on whether or not the Extra Virgin Olive Oil is truly “heart-healthy”. Critics state that the real reason Mediterranean cultures were healthier during the time of Ancel Keys’ study had more to do with their active lifestyles. That said, this counters the argument that exercise only accounts for a small percentage of a healthy lifestyle. The majority counts on what you eat. Eating healthy foods is just as important, if not more so than exercise. Therefore, if the Mediterranean’s of the 1960s were healthier than they are now, it wasn’t simply because they were more active.
Because the diet is not restrictive and doesn’t keep you on a strict regiment, it is very easy to substitute foods that might be detrimental to your health. For instance, if you can’t process fats very well, then make sure to get low-fat options. Speak with your doctor about whether or not the diet will work for you. That’s the only way you can know for sure.
Snack Less snack bar on a wooden table with peanuts and dates
Supplement Your Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is a great way to change your diet and work toward a healthier lifestyle. You’ll never be bored with the various cuisines you can choose from. The focus is on natural, plant-based foods and lean meats. It can be modified according to your specific dietary needs making it incredibly versatile. This is the kind of diet that can work for everyone!
Get started on the Mediterranean Diet with Snack Less. Our snack bars make a perfect addition to your meal plans. They’re made of deliciously sweet Medjool dates, one of the sweetest fruits you can eat. They have tons of health benefits and make for a great treat when you’re craving something sweet. Our bars are also packed with nuts like cashews and walnuts. You’ll get a sweet, protein-packed snack bar with us! The most important ingredient is, of course, the Hoodia parviflora which curbs your appetite and makes you feel satisfied for longer. This especially good for those dieters who do not like counting calories all the time. With the Mediterranean Diet as well as a few of our snack bars or gums, you’ll be on the way to a healthier, more vibrant, you.