In grad school one of my professors gave me an assignment that would forever influence my views on nutrition and diet. We were asked to read a weight loss book of our choice and follow the plan outlined in it for one week. Then we had to report back on how easy the plan was to stick to, how effective it was, and what, if any, science there was to back up its claims.
Not one to starve myself, I went in search of a diet that would allow me to eat a variety of satisfying foods. Somehow I ended up reading and following The MediterrAsian Way. I instantly became obsessed with the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle highlighted in the book. The minimally processed tasty and nutrient dense foods that make up the base of the Mediterranean diet are a far departure from the over processed "diet foods" prominently featured in the American "healthy" eating scene.
Boasting ample amounts of fiber, phytonutrients, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and flavor, the Mediterranean diet is one of the best healthy eating patterns to follow for optimal fertility, beauty, and health.
Tonia Buxton, UK Author and TV host, believes her healthy Greek diet and lifestyle are the reason she has stayed fertile well into her 40s. Science seems to support her praise for the Mediterranean way of eating and living. In a 2011 study, researchers found a relationship between the Mediterranean diet and infertility. The women who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were less likely to have difficulty getting pregnant compared to the women who didn't eat this way.
What we choose to eat has the potential to greatly affect the health and appearance of our skin. The Mediterranean diet is thought to beautify and protect our skin. One study has found a connection between acne and the Mediterranean diet. It seemed the patients whose diets were full of the seafood and plant based linchpins of the Mediterranean diet, while being low in red meat and dairy, were less likely to develop acne.
Besides warding off acne, it might also provide sun protection; and we all know how important sun protection is for preventing premature aging, wrinkling, and hyperpigmentation. It's believed the omega 3s, monounsaturated fatty acids, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals from the large amounts of fish, fruit, olive oil, whole grains, and vegetables in the diet, are partially behind the relatively low number of melanoma cases in Mediterranean countries.
In 2014 researchers published an article that reviewed the results of 37 Mediterranean diet and health studies. Overall, most of the studies found those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet, had a lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.
After reading these benefits you are probably ready to book the first flight you can find to one of the Mediterranean's beautiful locales so you can nosh with the natives on some authentic meals. The good news is, you don't have to use all your frequent flyer miles and vacation time to reap the benefits of this healthy diet. Just head to your nearest grocery store (or cupboard) and follow the guide below.
Mediterranean Eating Pattern
These foods make up the base of the Mediterranean diet. Make sure to include all or some of them at every snack and meal, every day.
- Whole Grains
- Beans, peas, lentils
- Herbs and Spices
- Olives/ Olive Oil
Unlike the standard American diet, which often centers around animal protein, the Mediterranean diet includes these foods regularly, but not necessarily daily. The foods below are eaten 2-5 times per week.
- Fish and Seafood
Beef, pork, and lamb are served and eaten at most once a week and usually less often than that. Rather than being the star of the meal, red meat is usually added in small amounts to vegetable, bean, grain, and lentil dishes.
- Red Meat
Processed foods are limited, making up only a tiny percentage of the diet. Small portions of desserts, which are a far cry from American sweets, may be eaten more frequently. Desserts in the Mediterranean are typically made of fresh fruit and nuts. Honey is the sweetener of choice.
- Processed Foods and snacks
- Sweets/ desserts
Moderate amounts of alcohol are regularly consumed, usually in the form of wine. This is optional. If you don't currently drink or shouldn't drink, it's not recommended you start. For men the limit is no more than 2 drinks, for women no more than 1 drink per day. Anything more than that and the risks start to outweigh the benefits.
Additional Lifestyle Factors
Another important part of a Mediterranean meal, which is likely just as important as what is eaten, is enjoying it with family and friends. Eating is a time to unwind and catch up with other people. Good company and conversation go hand in hand with good food. Physical activity, which we all know works in conjunction with healthy eating, is woven into daily living. Bike rides, walking, swimming, dancing, and playing with younger members of the family are fun ways to stay fit without heading to the gym.
If you would like more information, head over to two of my favorite sites. They are full of informative and practical information about the Mediterranean Diet.