The Mediterranean diet has been studied for over 60-70 years now. Starting with the Seven Countries study and continuing from there with several large observational studies, research repeatedly has shown that compliance to the Mediterranean diet appears to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions
The diet was initially based on the traditional diet of Greece (particularly Crete) and Southern Italy circa 1960’s. While it can never be exactly replicated, you can follow a Mediterranean diet wherever you are.
Not Sure Where to Start?
So how do you follow this diet? Drizzle olive oil on your bread? Add feta cheese and parmesan to your recipes? Drink wine every night? While these habits may sound Mediterranean, in terms of authentic Mediterranean diet and health benefits, what counts is a pattern of eating and not necessarily specific foods. For starters, here are 5 changes you can make to your diet right now and you can start with one of these and try it out for a week or so and then add the next. Than you can checkout my 5 Day Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan as well as the Mediterranean Diet Shopping List.
How to Start Following a Mediterranean Diet
1. Switch to olive oil and do not skimp on it.
Trying to follow a Mediterranean diet using very little olive oil defeats the purpose. Olive oil is the basis of the diet and many of the benefits appear to come from the good monounsaturated fats but also the polyphenols in the olive oil. However to get the benefits, you must replace other fats with olive oil, making it your type of fat in the diet. In addition olive oil is what helps with such a high consumption of vegetables. Greeks consume many vegetables and one of reasons for this is because they cook them with olive oil which makes it easier to eat large amounts.
2. Eat vegetables as a main course.
The high consumption of vegetables is a main characteristic of the Mediterranean diet. Greeks consume almost a pound of vegetables a day. In order for this to be accomplished vegetables such as green beans, peas, eggplant, artichoke, and okra are cooked in olive oil, tomato and herbs and accompanied with bread and feta cheese. A dish of these vegetables can provide 3 servings of vegetables.
3. Learn to cook a few basic Mediterranean meals.
4. Go vegan one or two days a week.
When we look at the traditional Greek diet, the Greeks abstained from animal products about 200 days a year for religious reasons. This most likely played an important role in the health benefits that were seen in that population. Check out the guidelines here.
5. Stop adding meat to everything.
I often see in recommendations for healthy eating plenty of vegetable dishes but also quite a bit of meat. We do not need that much meat (even if it is lean), and studies have shown that reducing meat is correlated with better health. Try the following guidelines: red meat once a week, chicken once a week and fish once a week.
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