What is the Med Diet?

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Med Diet Promises a Long and Healthy Life: What are the Key Ingredients?

The Mediterranean diet is based on a traditional, healthy living approach based on the eating habits from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This diet includes fresh dishes from Greece, Italy, and Spain.

The Med diet has been linked to a longer life – largely due to the positive effects it has on the heart. The ‘blue zones’ which enjoy this way of healthy eating are known for long and active lives.

It is one of those diets that most of us are aware of as a ‘good thing’, without knowing the specifics. This page introduces the key aspects of the Med diet. You will find details of the specific foods, and facts and figures about how effective it is below. There are also links to places to find recipes, so you can get started right away.

As regular readers will know, diet is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Sleep, stress reduction and (most important of all) regular exercise – in combination with a healthy diet – is where the biggest benefits come from.

Which Foods to Eat as Part of the Mediterranean Diet?

Any diet has a list of foods, and guidelines of when to eat and what proportion. Starting with the key groups – there is a long list of fresh, healthy, and unprocessed foods which you should be eating regularly.

Olive oil needs to have its own mention. This is a bedrock of the healthiest regions of the world. Not only do you get the benefits of olive oil – you get the bonus of not damaging yourself with the nasty processed oils which make up so much of the ‘western’ diet.

Good and Bad Fats - Olives Pic

Here are the key food groups:

  • Vegetables: A healthy mix of fresh vegetables including tomatoes, spinach, onions, cucumbers and more.
  • Nuts: Almonds, hazelnuts, cashews etc.
  • Seeds: Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds etc.
  • Seasonal Fruits: Oranges, apples, strawberries, grapes, peaches, melons and more.
  • Fish and Seafood: Tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel, crab, lobster, mussels.
  • Dairy: Cheeses and yoghurts.
  • Poultry: Chicken and turkey.
  • Eggs: Chicken and duck eggs.
  • Whole Grains: Barley, corn, brown rice, whole grain bread.
  • Herbs and Spices: Garlic, mint, rosemary, sage, cinnamon.

There are an incredible number of recipes you can enjoy as part of the Mediterranean diet. For example, a breakfast could be a combination of Greek yoghurt with a mixture of fruit and nuts. A healthy lunch could include a tuna salad with olive oil. For dinner, you could enjoy chicken, brown rice, and a mix of fresh, organic vegetables.

Far Lower Meat Consumption

Generally, the poultry, eggs and dairy products should be eaten moderately in comparison to the other suggested food types. Red meat should be eaten rarely. Many people in the ‘blue zones’ eat meat only once or twice per keep. This is a big difference between eating large portions of meat every day for many of us in the west.

Alongside the diet you’ll obviously need to drink. Water is always advised. Alcohol in moderation is part of a healthy diet in the Mediterranean. Red wine a regular feature at meals. There is a major difference between a glass of red with dinner and downing a bottle on a Friday night. Herbal / Fruit tea and black coffee are also healthy options – sweetened versions of these drinks should be avoided.

Red wine in moderation

What Foods to Avoid as Part of the Mediterranean Diet

There are many foods that should be left alone if you’re practising the Mediterranean diet, including the following:

  • Highly processed foods.
  • Refined grains such as white bread and pasta.
  • Processed versions of meat such as hot dogs and sausages.
  • Added sugar, such as sweets, ice cream, sugar itself and sugary fizzy carbonated drinks.
  • Refined oils such as canola oil, soybean oil and more.

The Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

There are various health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet:

  • Lower risk of heart disease and strokes
  • A reduced risk of contracting Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Protection against type 2 diabetes.
  • Half the risk of Parkinson’s disease, due to the antioxidants in the diet.
  • A higher level of agility for longer.

Long Life Blue Zones

Blue Zones and Longevity

Five ‘Blue Zones’ have been identified. These are areas where longevity is the highest around the world. Scientists have been investigating the reasons people in blue zones live so long for years. Diet has a huge influence. Two of those are on the Mediterranean:

Sardinia, Italy (in particular Ogliastra, Barbagia of Ollolai, and Barbagia of Seulo). The mountain villages in the region have a substantial proportion of men who reach the age of 100. The village of Seulo lays claim that it is ‘the place where people live the longest in the world’. Between 1996 and 2016 the village enjoyed 20 centenarians.

Icaria, Greece. The island of Icaria has the highest percentage of 90- year-olds on the planet, with almost 1 of every 3 reaching that grand old age. Cancer rates are 20% lower than the rest of world, heart disease is down 50% and there is almost no dementia on the island.

Alternative Diets with Health Benefits

Alongside the Mediterranean diet, two further diets have been associated with many of the same health benefits – the Paleo diet and the Ketogenic diet. Here is a brief rundown of each:

Paleo Diet: This diet is based exactly on what you could have eaten back in the Palaeolithic era of 10,000 years ago. This cuts out all processed foods, with a real emphasis on meats, fruits, and vegetables. Most of your carbs from this diet will come from fruits and vegetables.

Ketogenic Diet: The main goal of this diet is to put your body into ketosis, which ensures your body uses fats instead of carbohydrates as the main energy source. This diet will severely limit carbohydrates and have more of a concentration from fats. Nutritionists suggest the healthiest way of doing this is by eating nuts, seeds, eggs, and lean meats).

You can find a long list of healthy recipes (without the annoying pop-ups) over on the BBC Good Food website.

Whatever diet you choose, remember that regular exercise is the key to compounding the benefits!

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