What Is The Mediterranean Diet? A Detailed Beginner's Guide
Mediterranean diet is a traditional healthy living diet followed by the people from the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which includes Italy, Spain, Greece, and France. This diet varies from country to country, and hence it has no specific definition. This diet is specifically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grain, beans, seeds and nuts, and olive oil. The interest in this type of diet began in the 1960s because of the fewer deaths happened in the Mediterranean region due to coronary heart failure. Study says that people living here are way healthier than that of other countries and also had a low risk of many diseases like heart failure, diabetes, etc. It is also said that the Mediterranean diet helps in weight loss. In this article, we will cover the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and even a meal plan for the beginners.
Health Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet:
This diet is more of the vegetables, fruits, and it is not a meat-based diet. Olive oil is the main ingredient of this diet, which is said to have various health benefits. Some of the health benefits include:
1. Prevents Heart Failure And Strokes:
This diet limits the intake of refined loaves of bread, processed foods, red meat, and beverages that contain added sugars. Excessive intake of these products may cause heart problems. Also, this diet encourages drinking red wine instead of hard alcohol. These are factors that can prevent heart diseases and strokes.
2. Reduces The Risk Of Alzheimer’s:
Research suggests that this diet can improve blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and also maintains the overall blood vessel health, which is said to decrease the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Protects Against Diabetes:
Mediterranean diet is a fiber-rich diet that gets digested slowly and reduces the fluctuations of blood sugar, thus protecting against diabetes. This also helps in maintaining the blood sugar levels keeping a check on diabetes.
Olive oil is used in this diet, which is said to decrease hypertension. The olive oil has the capability of reducing the bad cholesterol and improving the good cholesterol levels in the blood, further opens the blood vessels, which improves the blood flow to the heart without any pressure and therefore reduces hypertension.
5. Strengthen Bones:
Research says that certain compounds in olive oil may help preserve bone density by increasing the proliferation and maturation of bone cells. It is also found that following this diet helps in preventing osteoporosis.
6. Protects Against Cancer:
A study suggests that adhering to this diet may help fight cancer. It is found that people who followed this diet religiously have a 15 percent lower rate of cancer mortality when compared to those who adhere the least. Different types of cancer include prostate cancer, breast cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer, etc.
7. Increase Life Span:
This diet reduces the risk of many diseases like coronary heart failure, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, etc. thereby increasing the life span of the person following this diet compared to other persons.
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Eating The Mediterranean Way:
The foundation of this diet is mainly plant-based, i.e., vegetables, fruits, herbs, beans, whole grains, and nuts. Moderate amounts of eggs, poultry, dairy, and seafood are also included.
- Eat vegetables and fruits in more quantities. Aim for 8 to 10 servings of these in a day. Salads, soups, and crudite platters are good ways to load up on vegetables.
- Switch to whole-grain bread instead of white bread for breakfast. Fruits, along with the grain bread, are a perfect start for your day. This keeps you full for long hours.
- Choose unsaturated oils like olive oil over the butter when cooking. Instead of spreading butter over the slices of bread, try dipping the dough in the olive oil.
- Consume seafood twice a week. Fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines are very rich in omega-three fatty acids, shellfish like clams and oysters are beneficial for heart and brain health.
- As far as possible, reduce the intake of red meat. Eat beans, poultry, or fish instead of beef. If you want to choose meat, make sure that it is lean and in moderate quantities.
- Enjoy the dairy products in moderate quantities. Dairy products like natural cheese, plain, or Greek yogurt can be eaten.
- Eat fruits for desserts. Ice-creams, cake or other baked goods should be replaced by some healthy fruits like strawberries, grapes, apples, or fresh figs.
- Water should be the primary beverage for this diet. Other drinks such as red wine can be consumed, but only one glass per day is allowable. Avoid drinking alcohol. Tea and coffee are acceptable but avoid sugars in it. Also, avoid sugar-sweetened fruit juices.
Foods To Eat:
Following are the foods that should be included in the Mediterranean diet:
- Vegetables: Vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, sprouts, cucumbers, etc. can be chosen.
- Fruits: Some of the fruits that are beneficial are bananas, apples, grapes, strawberries, figs, dates, oranges, pears, melons, and peaches.
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc. should be included in the diet.
- Tubers: Potatoes, turnips, yarns can also be included.
- Legumes: Pulses, peanuts, beans, lintels, etc. are the chief legumes to be included in this diet.
- Kinds of Seafood: Seafood include fish such as salmon, tuna, sardine, trout, and other seafood like oysters, crab, mussels, clams, etc. can be eaten.
- Herbs and Spices: Garlic, mint, basil, sage, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, etc.
- Dairy and Poultry: Dairy products include cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, etc. and poultry includes chicken, eggs, duck eggs, etc.
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One Week Mediterranean Diet Plan:
Mediterranean diet is not precisely a structured diet; instead, it is a style of eating or may be called as a pattern of eating. The Mediterranean diet pyramid should help us get started. This pyramid emphasizes eating vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, olive oil, etc. Below is the sample one week diet plan.
DAY 1 MONDAY:
Monday mornings are usually the frustrating ones for everyone, but you can make it an interesting one with this diet, starting with a healthy breakfast.
In a bowl, combine one and a half cups low-fat Greek yogurt, one egg, one cup whole-wheat pan-cake mix, and three-quarters cup pasteurized milk. This recipe makes five servings. Consume one serving now, and pack away four individual servings in the freezer for future meals. Serve with two tablespoons light maple syrup, one cup fat-free milk, and one cup fresh strawberries.
In a bowl, combine 250gms canned chickpeas, two teaspoons olive oil, one-fourth cup chopped white onion, one-fourth cup chopped green pepper (save the rest of the onion and pepper for dinner), one tablespoon sliced black olives, one-fourth teaspoon ground black pepper, and one and a half tablespoons white vinegar. Mix thoroughly. Serve the mixture.
Slice the remainder of white onion and green pepper from lunch into chunks; set out ten grape tomatoes—other pieces of onion, pepper, and cherry tomatoes on skewers and grill. Serve with 150gms of grilled salmon and one 6-inch whole-wheat pita pocket—spread pita with two tablespoons hummus. Finish with one cup fat-free milk.
DAY 2 TUESDAY:
In a clear, wide-mouth glass, layer half cup Greek yogurt with 1 cup raspberries and one-third cup lower sugar granola.
Eat one tuna salad with a piece of fruit.
Slice a 6-inch baguette roll in half lengthwise. Sprinkle the halves with one-quarter cup shredded mozzarella cheese and bake in a toaster oven for four to six minutes, until cheese starts to melt. Meanwhile, slice two large red tomatoes. Remove baguette from the toaster oven, sprinkle with a little dried oregano, and dried basil. Top with tomato slices. For dessert, eat a bar of small dark chocolate.
DAY 3 WEDNESDAY:
Make half of the Chive and Goat Cheese Frittata recipe. Eat half of the frittata now, and save the rest in the refrigerator for future use. Enjoy with a latte with skim or unsweetened soya milk.
Spread two slices of multi-grain bread with two-quarters avocado and stuff with a small sliced turkey breast, and as much sliced red pepper as you desire. Eat with a cup each of grapes and baby carrots.
For dinner, make half of the Mediterranean Grilled Sea Bass recipe and save the other half for Thursday. Increase your vegetable consumption by serving with baby arugula leaves with this meal. Add one ear of corn and one cup cooked sugar snap peas topped with two teaspoons butter on the side. For dessert, have one frozen fruit.
DAY 4 THURSDAY:
Make 1 cup of oatmeal and add ½ cup milk and hot water as desired.
Eat the remaining sea bass from Wednesday’s dinner over the rest of the baby arugula leaves.
Eat the refrigerated frittata that was saved from Wednesday’s breakfast. Have this with 2 cups baby spinach leaves, topped with two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and one cup fat-free milk. Eat one slice of whole-wheat toast topped with two teaspoons butter. For dessert, have single-serve ice cream.
DAY 5 FRIDAY:
Top 2 slices of 100% multi-grain bread with two tablespoons of peanut butter and 1/2 sliced banana.
Mix together ½ cup Greek yogurt with ½ finely chopped cucumbers, ½ minced garlic clove, and a shake of salt and pepper if desired. Spread half of the yogurt sauce (save remaining sauce for later use) on a 100% whole-grain sandwich thin and eat with a cup or more of veggies.
Make one-fourth of this Mediterranean Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe. Serve with ½ cup cooked brown rice topped with two teaspoons butter. Enjoy a glass of wine.
DAY 6 SATURDAY:
Whip up two eggs any style with 1/3rd sliced avocado and one-piece 100% whole-grain bread.
Top one half of a Green Giant Cauliflower Pizza Crust with tons of veggies (leftovers or whatever you feel like) and ½ cup of shredded cheese. Have this with a green salad (at least 2 cups) topped with two spoons of regular dressing of any kind. For dessert, you can have one scoop of your favourite ice cream in a plain cone.
Today, you have the liberty to go out to a restaurant and have sea food such as tuna or salmon or grilled shrimp with an extra order of veggies. Enjoy a glass of wine.
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DAY 6 SUNDAY:
Top a 100% multi-grain bagel thin with 1/3 cup fat-free ricotta cheese mixed with one tablespoon each peanut butter and honey. Sprinkle one tablespoon raisins on top.
Prepare this egg bowl and white rice. Cook an egg and add two cups of spinach and season with pepper and salt. Serve on top of Rice Multi-Grain Medley.
Marinate 200gms of shrimp in a basil marinade for at least 30 minutes or overnight. To make basil marinade: Whisk together ¼ cup white wine vinegar, one teaspoon olive oil, one tablespoon yellow lemon juice, and half quarter cup chopped fresh basil or one teaspoon of dried basil. Shrimp must be grilled until cooked through. You need to top 2 cups of romaine lettuce with the shrimp and mix well into greens for added flavour. Serve with 1 cup blueberries and enjoy with chocolate for dessert.
SNACKS TO EAT:
In this type of Mediterranean diet, you do not need to eat more than three meals per day. Although, if you feel hungry, there are many healthy snack options. Some of them are:
- Greek Yogurt
- Baby carrots
- A handful of nuts
- One small piece of fruit like an orange
- Apple slices
- Grapes and berries
- Leftovers from the day before
- A small portion of banana
Foods To Avoid:
The following are the foods that have to be avoided in this Mediterranean diet.
- Refined Grains: White pieces of bread, pasta made with refined wheat should be avoided.
- Added Sugar: Foods containing added sugars such as soda, candies, and ice creams should be avoided.
- Refined Oils: Oils such as soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil should not be used for cooking.
- Processed Foods: Foods that are factory-made should be avoided. Processed sausages and hot dogs etc. also to be avoided.
Mediterranean diet has no structured diet that will be followed. Still, this way of eating is usually rich in healthy plants and herbs with fewer animal meats without compromising on the seafood. There are many Mediterranean recipes available on the internet, but this one is just a tailored one for everyone, provided you do not have allergic reactions for any of the foods mentioned above. This diet is a healthy and delicious way to eat, and we can assure you that you will not be disappointed. Lastly, it is advisable to consult your physician before making any changes to your diet.
1. Is The Peanut Butter Part Of The Mediterranean Diet?
Ans: Yes, Peanuts are allowed on the Mediterranean diet, as is their nut butter counterpart. But like all other types of fat, be sure to eat peanut butter in moderation.
2. Does The Mediterranean Diet Help In Weight Loss?
Ans: Indeed!! This way of diet helps in weight loss because this diet is more of a plant-based rather than meat-based, which is high in additional fat content. Visible weight loss can only be achieved with proper exercise. Hence, physical activity, along with this diet, helps in weight loss.
3. Are There Any Possible Side Effects Of The Mediterranean Diet?
Ans: Yes, there are side effects of this diet. You may have calcium loss in your body from eating fewer dairy products, you may have lower levels of iron, and you may have weight gain from eating fats in olive oil and nuts.