What is a Mediterranean Diet?
What really is the Mediterranean Diet? It is being talked about in the media more than ever, but what does it actually look like and why is everyone lauding its benefits? Well, a recent review by the World Health Organization found compelling evidence that by following the Mediterranean diet principals, it would lower the rate of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and strokes. The fact that we can use nutrition as a powerful preventative tool is pretty darn empowering if you ask me! Healthy eating isn’t the sole answer to all of our health problems of course, genetics obviously play a huge part and all lifestyle choices are important too – such as not smoking, getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol.
Very simply speaking, a Mediterranean-inspired diet is full of a rainbow of fresh produce, legumes, whole grains, healthy oils, fish and small amounts of meat.
And in a little bit more detail, the principles are as follows:
· Eat colourfully and incorporate a varied rainbow of fruits and veggies every single day. Colour is nature’s way of advertising a food’s inherent “goodness” and the brighter the better! It provides us with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, which are all crucial for disease prevention.
· Eat and cook with the right types of fats, which include plenty of olive oils, avocados, nuts and seeds.
· Swap refined simple carbohydrates (like white pasta and white rice) for complex carbohydrates (like whole grains and root vegetables).
· Don’t overly rely on meat or dairy - I am not necessarily advocating removing it altogether, but there are other great sources of protein and it should be viewed as a small addition to a meal, rather than the main event.
· Incorporate more plant-based protein (like legumes) and fish, particularly oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel. This is because they are rich in Omega 3s, which are anti-inflammatory and are great for heart and brain health.
· Try to limit sugar and alcohol.
· Avoid processed and deep-fried foods.
Overall, I am very much an advocate for what I call POSITIVE nutrition. I love to talk about all of the foods that we CAN actually have rather than ones we can’t. I always like to look at a meal and think to myself “what can I ADD to make this as nutrient dense as possible?’ rather than looking to remove things from my diet. So let’s start adding some more whole grains, a rainbow of produce, healthy fats and omega 3s whenever we can; and not just because it is healthy - because it's downright delicious too!