It is well recognised that the traditional Mediterranean diet is considered the ‘gold’ standard of eating for both health and longevity and coupled with that there places around the world called ‘Blue Zones” – geographical areas where studies show people live measurably longer lives.
Both diets vary by region but the basic tenets are the same: the diet should be mainly based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, olive oil and fish.
Research proves over and over again that people who put an emphasis on local produce, fish, whole grains, and healthy fats not only weigh less, but also have a decreased risk of metabolic diseases eg heart disease, diabetes and strokes.
The basic diet
- Eat frequently: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
- Eat in Moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt (full fat).
- Eat Only Rarely: red meat – and choose best quality grass fed when you do eat meat.
Avoid all of these ‘processed foods’: You MUST read ingredients lists if you want to avoid these unhealthy ingredients.
- Added sugar: fizzy drinks, sweets, bought desserts, so called ‘hidden’ sugars found in many refined supermarket foods.
- Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, baked goods, biscuits etc.
- Trans fats: Found in margarines and spreads and various processed foods.
- Refined Oils: Soybean oil, canola (refined rapeseed oil), palm oil, cottonseed oil and other vegetable/seed oils.
- Highly processed meat: Processed sausages, hot dogs, etc. Good quality salami, preserved meats are ok occasionally
- Highly or Ultra processed foods: Everything labelled “low-fat” or “diet” or “sugar free” or looks like it was made in a factory.
Do include the following:
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, figs, melon, peaches, apricots etc.
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and more.
- Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas, etc.
- Tubers: (in moderation) new potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, beets, yams, etc.
- Whole Grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, buckwheat, , whole grain bread eg rye.
- Fish and Seafood: wild salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey and game birds.
- Eggs: Chicken, quail and duck eggs.
- Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, milk kefir (full fat) etc.
- Herbs and Spices: garlic basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.
- Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocado and avocado oil.
- Water should be your go-to beverage on a Mediterranean diet.
- This diet also includes moderate amounts of red wine – moderate drinkers generally outlive non-drinkers (1-2 glasses when drinking BUT with alcohol free days ever week)
- Coffee and tea are also acceptable, but avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices, which are very high in sugar.
- Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full to avoid weight gain – leave the table feeling you could eat a bit more – but don’t succumb …..!
- Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
- Eat mostly plants, especially beans – high fibre
- Eat meat occasionally in small portions of about 120g (size of palm of hand).
- Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month on average.
- Regular naps: risk of heart disease is about 1/3 lower than if you keep on pushing yourself
- Exactly which foods belong in the Mediterranean diet is controversial, partly because there is such variety between different countries.
- The diet prescribed in the studies is high in plant foods, and relatively low in animal foods.
- However, eating fish and seafood is recommended at least twice a week.
The Mediterranean lifestyle also involves regular physical activity, sharing meals with other people, belonging to a community and generally enjoying life!
STOP PRESS: a new research paper has shown how health the Mediterranean diet is for the over 65′s – read more here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/mediterranean-diet-mortality-elderly-italy-health-a8515751.html