A traditional Mediterranean diet has it’s origins in the Mediterranean region. The Greek people have lived on this diet for thousands of years and have exhibited many health benefits as a result. Recent studies have shown eating a Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of dementia, reverse symptoms of depression and anxiety, prevent heart attacks and promote a longer life generally. It can help ward off diabetes as well as bowel, breast and prostate cancers.
It’s healthy and it’s also delicious, so it’s very easy adopt it long term and you don’t feel like you are ‘missing out’ by sticking to it. It consists of fruits (in moderation due to the high sugar component), vegetables, whole grains (containing the 3 parts of the grain-bran, endosperm and germ), legumes, nuts, bread, fish, and plenty of extra-virgin olive oil.
How to follow a Mediterranean Diet:
1. Use extra virgin olive oil as the primary source of fat (aim for around 40 mls /day)
Olive oil itself was the most powerful single contributing factor to the healthiness of the Mediterranean Diet. Research suggests you should have four to six servings of healthy fats a day-a serving is a teaspoon of olive oil (5mls). This monounsaturated fat can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats. The Mediterranean diet discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats), both of which contribute to heart disease.
Some extra-virgin olive oils especially the premium olive oils from Greece contain the highest levels of phenolic compounds, the protective plant compounds, that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
2. Eat vegetables with every meal (include 100g leafy greens and 100g tomatoes, and 200g other vegetables/day)
3. Include at least two legumes meals (250g serve) per week
4. Eat smaller portions of meat
- Red meat- 120g up to 4 times a month
- Poultry- 150g twice a week
- Fish- 150g at least twice a week. Fatty fish — such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, Atlantic and Australian salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, gemfish, canned sardines, and canned salmon are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Canned tuna is not as high in the important fish oil omega-3, but still a good choice to include in your fish serves.
5. Eat fresh fruit every day (1 piece) and dried fruit (40g) and nuts as snacks or dessert.
Nuts are part of a healthy Mediterranean diet but because they are high in saturated fat they should not be eaten in large amounts (30g per day)
6. Eat at least 8 olives per week.
7. Eat yoghurt every day (about 200g) and cheese in moderation (about 30 to 40 grams per day)
8. Include wholegrain breads and cereals with meals (aim for 2-3 slices of bread per day)
Bread is an important part of the diet and is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil. It is not eaten with butter or margarines, which contain saturated or trans fats. Replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil.
9. Consume wine in moderation (one standard drink a day, which is about 100 mls), always with meals and don't get drunk.
Try and have a couple of alcohol-free days a week