The benefits of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is the diet traditionally consumed in many Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France and Greece. This type of diet is characterised by high consumption of vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, seeds, omega 3's and whole grains and limits unhealthy fats such as trans and saturated and reduces animal protein intake
The Mediterranean diet has been clinically shown time and time again to have a great impact in reducing cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and waist circumference, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There is also evidence to support the prevention of certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
One of the main reasons that a Mediterranean diet is so successful is that it focuses on fruits and vegetables being the main parts of the meal and then the fats and proteins being the supplementary parts of the meal. It is also not about eliminating foods or telling you to cut foods out, it is about educating you the best foods to include in your diet, the ones you should be eating the most and which ones should be only occasional foods.
FOODS TO FOCUS ON DAILY
Whole grains: Oats, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, whole grain bread etc (approx. 1/2 a cup cooked is 1 serve)
Vegetables: aim for 1-2 cups of vegetables with every meal or a minimum of 5 serves per day (A serve of vegetable is classified as 1 cup of leafy vegetables and half a cup of other vegetables).
Fruits: aim for 2 serves per day (a serve of fruit is 1 banana, apple, pear or larger fruit, 2 apricots or smaller fruits or a handful of berries or grapes).
Beans and legumes: aim for at least 2-3 serves per week (1 cup is 1 serve)
Nuts: aim for at least 3 serves per week (30 grams is 1 serve)
Healthy fats: Such as Avocado and extra virgin olive oil, the best source of healthy mono-unsaturated fats that help reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and increases HDL (the good one); it also provides the highest levels of antioxidants.
FOODS TO FOCUS ON WEEKLY
Fish and seafood: 2-3 times per week. Especially fatty fish rich in omega-3 such as salmon, sardines and anchovies (approx. 120gm raw piece of fish is one serve)
Eggs: 2-3 times per week
Poultry: 1-2 times per week (100gm raw chicken or duck is a serve)
FOODS TO FOCUS ON MONTHLY
Red meat: lean red meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal) can be eaten 3-4 times per month.
Sweets: couple of times per month
ENJOY ALCOHOL IN MODERATION
Alcohol: No more than one drink for women and two drinks for men per day. Alcohol in moderation, especially red wine, has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.