The Mediterranean Diet: Making Bodies Happy

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MEDITERRANEAN DIET

A few months ago when I was in for a routine physical, I inquired of my doctor about the Mediterranean Diet plan.  No, I do not have any serious medical issues. In fact, I average at least a half a marathon a day in running and walking miles, but because I want to be able to continue with my active lifestyle well into my Golden Years, I want to be proactive now to ensure a heathier future for myself.

My doctor actually recommended this diet plan and he did not just suggest it because he is a physician. He actually walks the walk.  He indicated he subscribes to this lifestyle (a better word than “diet,” from what I have read!) and to that end has greatly improved his own health, lowering his cholesterol levels, reducing his A1C and improving his blood pressure.

What exactly is the Mediterranean diet? In a nutshell, it is a heart-healthy eating plan based on the foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking. Surprisingly, it’s easy to adopt and quite tasty, too! Once you hop on board, you may even feel rather indulgent at times, but in a good way.

According to the mayoclinic.org web site, this particular diet simply involves the basics of healthy eating, including a bit of flavorful olive oil and a glass of red wine on occasion. (Now I have your attention!)

Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains while limiting unhealthy fats. Sure, these elements have proven to be tried-and-true, but subtle differences and variations in the proportions of certain foods may have a positive effect in reducing your risk of heart disease.  This diet has been associated with a lower level of LDL cholesterol, referred to as the “bad” cholesterol that tends to build up deposits in your arteries. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as overall mortality. Further, it has been associated with a reduction in the incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. And women who subscribe to this meal plan may also realize a reduced risk of breast cancer.  When it comes to battling chronic diseases, the Mediterranean diet is suggestive of a Super Hero meal plan!

When beginning this diet, your grocery list will want to contain the following:

  • Plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Olive oil and canola oil (instead of butter)
  • Herbs and spices (instead of salt)
  • At least two servings of fish and poultry each week
  • Limiting red meat consumption to just a few times a month
  • Red wine (in moderation, please!)

This diet traditionally includes some pasta, rice and whole grains. Bread is an integral part of the Mediterranean people’s meals, but they avoid butter, eating their bread plain or dipped in olive oil.  Nuts, although high in fat (the unsaturated kind), are also part of this healthy diet, but due to their high caloric content, only a handful a day is recommended.

Be sure to enjoy meals with family and friends without your cell phone or TV on and also make time for daily exercise. As with any diet or exercise plan, it is important to speak with your doctor first to find a plan that is tailored specifically for you.

This article is for information only and is not intended to be a cure or treatment plan.

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