Some cultures have traditional diets that naturally promote better health amongst their population. One that has been studied extensively and given a resounding ‘thumbs up’ by science is the diet followed by Mediterranean cultures. It’s been found to be particularly beneficial in promoting good cardiovascular health. Let’s take a look at how the Mediterranean diet compares with a modern western diet, and discover several easy ways you can incorporate Mediterranean style food into your own diet.
First, consider the modern western diet. It’s dominated by grains, dairy and sugar. Many people eat vegetables only once a day, and struggle to include seafood in their diet more than once or twice a week. Legumes appear on their plate only rarely.
Here are the elements that make the Mediterranean diet different – and better for you.
Vegetables abound, in at least two meals of the day. Apart from being a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, vegetables are a source of antioxidants, the anti-ageing nutrient.
Legumes are a staple part of the Mediterranean diet: They’re a great source of complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals. With a naturally low GI rating they’re a fabulous way to include carbohydrates in your diet without giving yourself a blood sugar spike. Ideal for diabetics; and the mix of soluble and insoluble fibre promotes better bowel health.
Oily fruits: The olive and Mediterranean style food are synonymous. Olive oil is widely used through their cooking, even to dip bread into. It’s a healthy monounsaturated fat.
Seafood: Protein sources in the Mediterranean diet are dominated by seafood. This automatically increases the proportion of omega-3 oils (which are anti-inflammatory) in your diet, and reduces the proportion of omega-6 fats (which are pro-inflammatory). No wonder the Mediterranean diet is so good for cardiovascular health - clogged arteries are partially caused by an inflammatory diet.
Red wine (in moderation!) It’s scientifically proven to be good for your health – and I bet the researchers thoroughly enjoyed delving into the benefits of this drink!
Sure, grains dairy and sugar still appear in the Mediterranean diet, but more as additions that ‘spice up’ a meal rather than the main event.
Want to assess how close your diet is to the Mediterranean? Write down everything you ate yesterday, then take a highlighter and note the proportion of grains, dairy and sugar to vegetables, legumes and seafood. Then, if you can see room for improvement, start changing at least one of your meals each day. The local library and the internet abound with recipes to inspire you.