Make Each Day Mediterranean!

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May is National Mediterranean Diet Month

This delicious eating plan is a lifestyle, incorporating delicious foods known for wide-ranging health benefits.

When the word “diet” comes to mind, a vast array of tasty and delicious foods does not often come to mind. Instead, the mere mention of the word suggests being trapped with a boring, tasteless and unappealing menu. However, when the word “diet” is paired with Mediterranean, it suddenly brings on a whole new meaning and is bound to bring your taste buds alive! By now you have probably heard of the Mediterranean Diet plan, but you may not be entirely certain as to exactly what it is. Essentially, it is a heart-healthy way of eating that has been thought to reduce the incidence of heart disease. Rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables – and even a glass of wine with dinner – this diet has proven to reduce incidences of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease by about 30% in people who are at high risk for such catastrophic events. Instead of considering this as just another diet, think of it is a healthy lifestyle and appetizing way of life.

Scientific studies have consistently reported the healthy Mediterranean Diet and its lifestyle practices with the reduction of chronic diseases, including heart disease cancer and diabetes. There is also strong evidence to suggest the omega-3 vitamins, found in a many of the Mediterranean Diet foods, can boost your overall health and brain power, no matter what your age. It can also help with weight loss and help to lower blood pressure. This truly is a gold-standard way of eating and living.

With May designated as National Mediterranean Diet Month, there is not a better time to eat like a Greek and enjoy the exciting health benefits. Granted, you may not be able to relax on a black sand beach in Crete or take in the breath-taking views of Mykonos. However, you can enjoy a refreshing Mediterranean-style meal on a mild Spring day al fresco while noshing on some of the tastiest foods available.

To get started, a few of the staple products you will need are olive oil, Greek yogurt, hummus, and olives. It’s simple to approach this way of eating and it reflects a way of enjoying good food that is traditional in the countries that embrace the Mediterranean Sea. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel overseas to be a part of this exciting celebration. Just head on over to your local supermarket to discover the fresh foods and bountiful flavors. You don’t have to make significant changes to your diet, either. It is more about making a few simple changes in the way you eat, not only today but for the rest of your life.

To eat more like a Greek, opt for more fresh fruits and vegetables; consume fish instead of meat; replace butter with olive oil, and reach for nuts instead of chips when you have the urge to snack. Don’t sweat this, though, as there is no “right” way by which to begin this diet. You can adjust this eating plan to suit your individual needs and preferences, and be aware that all of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea don’t necessarily consume the same foods.

Let’s just start with the basics. You should have on hand a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil. These are typically the staples of this particular diet plan. You can enjoy in moderation poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt. Only consume red meat on rare occasions. If you have a sweet tooth, this could be a bit of a challenge, but practice makes perfect. You will want to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and added sugars. This means “just say no” to sodas, candies, ice cream, and table sugar. You should also avoid processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other processed foods. Bear in mind the importance of reading ingredient lists to avoid these unhealthy ingredients.

Instead, focus on stocking up on vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers and carrots. Tips the scales in favor of fresh fruits, such as apples, bananas, pears, grapes, figs, melons, peaches and strawberries. Nuts and seeds are good, too, so reach for a few almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and Macadamia nuts. Even sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are invited to the party! If you like legumes, you are in luck, as this diet plan encourages beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, and chickpeas. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips and yams are also a part of the Mediterranean Diet plan.

While it may seem like bread would be a “no-no,” you can enjoy whole grain bread and pasta. Instead of red meats, lean towards salmon, trout, tuna, shrimp, crab, mussels, chicken, duck and turkey. Dairy products also make the list, and you can enjoy cheese and yogurt on this diet. And as with most any recipe, the herbs and spices always add that special pop of flavor, so go ahead and sprinkle on some garlic, basil, rosemary, sage, cinnamon and pepper. Basically, this diet focuses on whole, single ingredient foods, which are key to good health.

In order to share the growing enthusiasm for this incredible lifestyle, join the movement to help make each day Mediterranean by sharing your celebration on social media. Just use the #MedDietMonth or follow Oldways on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Be sure to also go online and discover a variety of Mediterranean Diet recipes and makeover meals, as well as engage with nutritionists online. You may also want to consider hosting a Mediterranean Diet taste-testing event at your home to celebrate and support this exciting initiative in the month of May.

Sources:  oldwayspt.org and healthline.com
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