Mediterranean Diet Basics: Foods For Health & Weight Loss

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Extensive research has made it clear that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat. A growing number of people are discovering the advantages of this method, which is good for various systems of the body.

Residents of countries along the Mediterranean Sea region have long consumed certain foods that ward off illnesses and diseases while promoting longevity. Their cuisine consists primarily of plant-based foods, along fish and whole grains. Saturated fats and salt are avoided, and red meat and white grains are severely limited.

The Mediterranean plan placed first on a list of healthiest diets that U.S. News & World Report compiled. The newspaper also rated the diet No. 1 for diabetics, people wishing to bolster their cardiovascular system, and those looking for an “easy to follow” culinary program.

Reasons to Switch to the Diet

Mediterranean nutrition involves much less low-density lipoprotein, the dangerous kind of cholesterol that damages arteries. As a result, those who consume the foods in this diet are less vulnerable to dying from heart disease, according to a study of more than 1.5 million people. They experience fewer heart attacks and strokes; and tend to maintain more stable blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

A review of many studies revealed that the risk of contracting cancer is 13 percent lower for people on the Mediterranean diet. Breast cancer is less common for women because of the regimen’s emphasis on nuts and olive oil. This manner of eating also has been found to deter prostate, liver, colorectal, gastric and other cancers.

Mediterranean dieters are 40 percent less likely to suffer from dementia. There are far fewer cases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as depression. Experts also believe the diet fosters bone strength, fends off osteoporosis, and helps people with Type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar.

Ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet

It all starts with vegetables and fruits. Experts recommend 10 daily servings. The best choices are green, leafy veggies – especially kale, collared greens, spinach and cabbage. Fresh, organic produce is preferable.

Fish, chicken and turkey are much leaner than red meats such as beef and pork. Salmon, albacore tuna, trout, herring and sardines contain extremely beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Many nutritionists suggest eating fish two times each week. Grill or bake it instead of frying.

Bread, pasta, rice and cereal should consist of whole grains. They leave people less susceptible to hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.

Refined grains contribute to obesity and inflammation.

Beans and other legumes, as well as nuts and seeds, provide protein. While high in fat, they do not have saturated or trans fats. Try almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts. Limit consumption to about one handful of nuts daily.

Mediterranean cooks traditionally use olive oil, though organic canola oil is an acceptable alternative. Olive oil offers antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that lessen the risk of heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol and blood-sugar levels, and Alzheimer’s disease. The extra-virgin type is the best.

Most other oils are packed with saturated fats. The same is true with butter and margarine. In addition to olive oil, alternatives include nut butter, coconut oil, a clarified butter called ghee, Greek yogurt, avocados, mashed pumpkins or bananas, and applesauce.

Salt raises blood pressure and causes other health problems. The Mediterranean diet features herbs and spices, which can be purchased individually or in seasoning mixes.

The foods in this style of eating are often eaten with heart-healthy wine, which has numerous qualities that enhance well-being. However, moderation is important since over-consumption of alcohol causes multiple health problems.

Foods to Limit or Avoid

Among the things to not eat (in addition to those previously mentioned) are processed meats like hot dogs and sausage, anything with added sugars, and processed and packaged foods. Most restaurant meals come with unwanted ingredients such as salt and unhealthy fats.

Dairy is not a significant element of Mediterranean cuisine. Experts advise only small amounts of low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt. However, beware of all types of products claiming to be “diet,” “low-fat” or “natural.” Read the labels to get the facts.

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