The Mediterranean diet is widely recognized as one of the most heart-healthy diets out there. More of a lifestyle than a restrictive diet, it is based on the traditional cuisines found along the Mediterranean sea. In addition to supporting cardiovascular health, it is also beneficial for weight loss, brain function, blood sugar levels, and overall longevity.
The Mediterranean diet puts a strong emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, olive oil and fish. Some key points include:
- Fruits and vegetables: make these the backbone of every meal
- Whole grains: use to round out a plate at mealtime.
- Spices and herbs: add for flavor and nutrients to many dishes.
- Beans: include as a daily staple.
- Nuts: eat a handful every day, either as a snack or as part of a meal.
- Olive and avocado oil: use instead of butter and margarine.
- Dairy products: eat limited quantities.
- Red wine: enjoy 1 glass per day with dinner.
Here are some tips to help you include the above choices when you plan your meals.
- Choose at least 6-7 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Look for brightly colored produce that’s in season.
- Eat at least one serving of beans per day, about ½ cup. This could be in soups, salads, as a side dish, such as a multi-bean salad, or as a main dish.
- Eat at 5-6 servings of whole grains per day (1 ounce = 1 serving.)
- Limit meat and poultry to 1 serving each or less per week. Aim for 1-2 servings of cold water fish per week (never buy farm raised fish).
- Cook with garlic, herbs and spices. Use fresh and dried herbs, especially oregano, rosemary, thyme and basil to season your dishes whenever you can.
- Choose olive oil for cooking and salad dressings. Avoid peanut, safflower, corn and soybean oils. You can also use avocado oil, which can withstand higher temperatures than olive oil. Eliminate margarine; avoid butter, but if you do use it, opt for a high quality butter made from grass-fed milk, such as Kerrygold.
- Eat a handful of nuts every day. An easy way to incorporate them is to sprinkle a tablespoon on salad. Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts are good options. You can also try a mixed nut butter on a slice of whole grain bread.
- If you drink alcohol, have a glass of wine with a meal. Avoid hard liquor and beer. Limit to one glass of wine (5 ounces) per day for women, and 2 glasses (10 ounces) per day for men.
- Stay away from added sugar, refined grains, trans fats and processed food.
Since there’s no strict rules and it allows for many delicious foods, it is an easy diet to follow. We recommend it to almost all of our patients. We encourage you to give it a try. If you have any questions, feel free to give our office a call.