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What is the Mediterranean Diet?Mediterranean Diet

Q: I’ve read that according to the US News and World Report that the Mediterranean diet was named the best for 2019. What kind of eating plan is it?

A: When we refer to the Mediterranean “diet”, it is not a weight loss diet, but rather an eating plan designed for good health, and based upon eating traditions dating back nearly 4,000 years. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, in addition to MyPlate, two additional eating patterns are supported: the Healthy Vegetarian and the Healthy Mediterranean Eating Patterns.

The Mediterranean (Med) eating pattern incorporates the basics of healthy eating that are traditionally practiced in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Local and Regional foods are the norm, with fresh food purchased frequently.

Some of the benefits, of the Med eating plan include low rates of obesity, the lowest rates of chronic disease in the world, and the highest adult life expectancy worldwide.

Other research has linked the Med plan with a reduction in Alzheimers and dementia, allergies in children, various types of cancer and even type 2 diabetes. A recent study found that children who ate this dietary pattern were less obese than children eating a typical American diet.

For a list of current research related to health benefits, go to: http://oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/mediterranean-dietpyramid/med-diet-health .

These simple steps will help you eat the “Med Way” every day: 

  • Get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Choose a variety of colors and eat more of the dark green, leafy vegetables such as collards, kale, spinach, and turnip greens. 
  • Eat primarily plant-based foods. Reduce red meat with plant-based proteins, such as beans and legumes often.
  • Choose whole grain foods such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and popcorn. When choosing bread and pasta, look for “whole” in the first ingredient on the ingredient list (e.g., “whole grain wheat”). 
  • Choose at least three ounces of nuts and seeds per week. Avoid candied, honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts and seeds.
  • Moderate dairy (choose mostly yogurt and cheese).
  • Replace solid fats (butter/margarine) and other oils with olive oil. Aim to consume at least 4 tablespoons per day.
  • Use herbs, spices, citrus, and vinegars instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Eat seafood at least three times per week. Include fatty fish, such as mackerel and salmon. Avoid fried fish.
  • Eat white-meat poultry, such as turkey and chicken, at least twice a week.
  • Drink red wine, in moderation (optional*)—no more than five ounces of wine/day for women of all ages and men older than 65 and no more than 10 ounces of wine/day for younger men.
  • Minimally processed foods. 
  • Increase physical activity and community socialization. This includes ‘not’ eating alone, but rather eating with family and friends. Enjoying food in the company of others. *Consuming alcohol is not recommended if you have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse, or if you have heart or liver disease.