Fish, tomatoes, feta cheese, chicken and lots of olive oil. We have just listed a bunch of ingredients to make a special meal, but these all have something in common: They’re staples of the Mediterranean diet.
When you think of the Mediterranean you probably think of the coast of Greece. Blue and white colors span the coastline. The sun beams down and you relax at the table, enjoying fresh ingredients and flavors…
It may seem like a dream vacation, but you can still live the Mediterranean life and reap the Mediterranean benefits. And it all starts with what you put on your plate (you’ll still need a plane ticket for the view, though!).
Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Over the last few years, numerous studies have come out revealing the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. One recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed the effects of diet on brain health.
For the study, 447 cognitively health participants, age 55 to 80, were divided into three groups: Two groups followed the Mediterranean diet, with a daily extra 30g of nuts for one group or five tablespoons of olive oil a day for the other. The third group simply followed a low-fat diet. Participants were followed for four years.
The two groups on the Mediterranean diet experienced stronger overall memory function in comparison to the control group. In particular, the group which had the olive oil had better global cognition – meaning they could keep up with the demands of modern society.
This new study on the Mediterranean diet and the brain was a follow-up from previous research that examined the diets benefits for the heart. In that study, 7,500 participants at high risk for a cardiovascular event were involved. Research showed by eating the Mediterranean diet, they reduced their incidences of a major cardiovascular event.
The researchers’ recommendations, then, are to add at least five tablespoons of olive oil to meals and try to incorporate nuts – walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts – to your diet for maximum benefits and to keep your brain health strong.
These two studies reveal that the Mediterranean diet is useful to not only protect the mind, but the heart as well. So whether you are at risk for cardiovascular disease, or simply want to maintain brain health as you age, there is no easier way to do so than to enjoy some delicious meals. But in order to eat well, you need to get familiar with what’s involved.
Other health benefits include:
- Protection against type 2 diabetes
- Preventing stroke
- Reducing risk of Alzheimer’s
- Increased longevity
What Foods Make up the Mediterranean Diet?
So what exactly will you be eating when you embark on the Mediterranean diet? The basic principles of the diet revolve around lots of fruits and vegetables, olive oil and nuts, of course, poultry and fish and, for maximum benefits, exercise.
The below chart indicates the amount of each food item you should be consuming.
As you can see, although meat is at the top, it’s the smallest section, meaning you shouldn’t be consuming too much steak or beef. The largest section, on the other hand, is vegetables, nuts, oil and fruit. Not only should you be eating these foods daily, but feel free to have them in abundance and at every meal. Another bonus? You can even enjoy a glass of wine – take note of a glass. You won’t receive additional benefits by consuming more – moderation is key!
The variety is endless and the Mediterranean diet isn’t as hard as it looks. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are looking to take advantage of this health-promoting diet.
Tips to Change Your Diet Style
If you currently skip a meal, order in or frequently pass through a drive-thru, there isn’t much of a place for any of that in the Mediterranean diet. Enjoying breakfast, lunch and dinner is the key for success when eating in this style. Sweets are kept to a minimum so your daily treat has to be brought down to weekly and then ideally monthly.
Stay away from anything processed, items that use sugar, trans fats or are refined. The secret to the Mediterranean diet is eating whole foods. If it isn’t grown or raised that way, don’t consume it.
It’s been said that it’s too costly to eat the Mediterranean way, but when the numbers are crunched, purchasing meat and processed foods adds up more quickly. So you won’t be breaking the bank for your health.
As with any diet, it should always be supplemented with exercise. For maximum cardiovascular benefits, for example, you have to exercise to help boost cardiovascular health alongside eating a heart-friendly diet. So take up an evening stroll with your partner or friend for company.
If you follow these tips and considerations, you will reap the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. All you need now are some Mediterranean diet recipes, so you can start benefiting from it tonight.
Mediterranean Diet Recipes
Below are two delicious Mediterranean diet recipes which are easy to make and everyone will love.
Mediterranean Tuna Salad
½ cup cooked (or canned) garbanzo beans
3 ounce chunk light tuna, packed in water, drained
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
juice of one lemon, 1 tablespoon reserved
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups spring mix greens.
Toss together the beans, tuna, bell pepper, onion, parsley, capers, rosemary, about half of the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon olive oil in a bowl – season with the pepper. Whip together 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons olive oil and salt – mix with the salad greens. Place the dressed greens on a plate and top with the tuna mixture. Serves: 1
Rosemary-Orange Grilled Chicken
Package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 cloves of garlic
½ white onion, sliced
1 chopped chili
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.
In a mortar and pestle, bash the rosemary, garlic, chili and orange zest together. You can use a food processor as well, but we don’t think anything works as well as a pestle and mortar to really get flavors and aromas going. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a little bashing in the kitchen.
Once all of your dry ingredients are mixed together, squeeze the orange juice and add the olive oil to combine everything together.
Place the chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle the sliced onion overtop. Once your marinade is mixed well, pour it over the chicken and mix it all together.
Using clean hands, try to really massage the marinade into the chicken; this will really get the flavors infused in the meat.
Cover and let the chicken marinade for at least an hour in the fridge, and preferably overnight if you can.
Once ready, preheat the grill to 425ºF. Once the chicken is on the grill, reduce the temperature to medium and grill for about 10 minutes per side or until an internal temperature of 180ºF is reached. Time: 30 minutes. Serves: 4-6.