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The Mediterranean Diet Explained

If you've ever looked into healthy eating styles, you've probably heard about the Mediterranean diet. This diet is considered one of the healthiest lifestyle changes out there according to most dietitians and doctors, and there are a variety of books and articles on the subject.

The problem is that there is simply so much information out there, it can be difficult to define what the Mediterranean diet is. Fortunately, understanding the Mediterranean diet, and even switching to it, is relatively easy.

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What the Mediterranean Diet consists of

Rather than completely excluding you from any one nutrition source, except possibly processed foods, the Mediterranean diet embraces most food groups. Eating the Mediterranean diet doesn't mean cutting out carbs or saying no to meat. It is instead, choosing to eat mostly fruits and vegetables, supported by whole grains, lean meats, and the occasional glass of wine.

Because the Mediterranean diet consists of the food eaten by the native people of 23 different countries, there's a great deal of variety in what is considered acceptable. The focus is on fresh, wholesome, foods over highly processed ones.

So what foods specifically can you expect? Here are a couple of great options found commonly in almost all Mediterranean countries.

Salads

All Mediterranean countries serve salads, and plenty of them. Dieters who never want to see another lettuce leaf again may feel disappointed at first, until they see the dazzling toppings often included on these leafy treats. Mediterranean salads often feature a delicious blend of fruits, nuts, dressings, and other toppings to make that arugula and kale go down easily.

Fish and other Seafoods

When we think of the Mediterranean, we think of the sea, tropical beaches, and palm trees. It should come as no surprise then to learn that the Mediterranean diet consists of lots of seafood. Fish contain omega 3 fatty acids which are often neglected in the American diet, and can boost your cognitive function as well as your mood. Adding seafood of any kind is a great way to make your meals healthier.

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Flat breads

Mediterranean diets include a type of bread called pita, a bread that has gained attention through the health world because of its excellent flavor and wholesome nutrition. This flat bread is used with a host of different dips, running from hummus to olive oil, and so much more. Flat bread is a major component of this diet, and it should definitely be included in yours if you plan to switch.

How to adopt the Mediterranean Diet

If you want to lose weight, lower your risk of heart disease, and embrace a healthy lifestyle that doesn't limit you to a single food group, the Mediterranean Diet is the right choice for you. To get started, all you need to do is to incorporate more of these foods into your diet. Choose a variety of colors on your plate, including vegetables in every color and fruits as well. Enjoy lean meats, sea food, and snack away on your pita bread and dips. The Mediterranean diet even allows for some alcohol—wine in particular, in moderation.

Long term studies have followed the Mediterranean diet, and have found it to be an extremely healthy way to live. 

It's Never Too Early to Start Eating Healthy

"I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’m untouchable." Or… that’s what some of us tend to think.

Recently, I had a doctor’s appointment. I like to think I’m pretty healthy. I track what I eat and keep under a calorie amount, I work out four times a week, and I live a pretty positive lifestyle. So, imagine my surprise when I learn that my blood pressure has jumped up in the past few years.

Eat less salt, lose some weight, and add more vegetables into your diet.

That’s what I was told. I hardly feel like I’m old enough to be considered an adult, and here I am worrying about blood pressure. It really woke me up. Eating healthy isn’t just important for the elder demographics. It’s important for me, and it’s important for you.

There are a million and one reasons why it’s important that humans of all ages eat healthy. Food pyramids aren’t a joke, and neither were Michelle Obama’s initiatives to get America healthy. But despite the clear reasons for why we should, and the innumerable resources for how we should, many of us still opt not to eat healthy.

Eating healthy isn’t convenient. I know this. But your heart doesn’t care what’s convenient, and it’s time we all took a page out of the ol’ science book. If you throw convenience out the window and focus on the benefits of what spending a little time in the kitchen with a grocery bag full of healthy whole foods, I think you’ll start to agree with your heart.

Source:  Flickr

Source: Flickr

Other than… well… health, what are the benefits of having a healthy diet? Here are a few benefits to healthy eating that you might find endearing if you’re anything like me:

You’ll be more productive.

The cheap gas at the pump is tempting, but we all know that the higher-octane fuel is higher performance and better for the car, right? Think of food the same way. Though fruits and vegetables often aren’t expensive, we put them aside in favor of more tasty and fun foods like fruit snacks and chocolate chip cookies. However, when we put the “high octane” foods into our bodies, they run more efficiently. Easy in, easy out. Studies show that an unhealthy diet can cause you to lose up to 66% of your productivity. Ouch.

You’ll spend less money.

The idea that eating healthy is an expensive endeavor is a myth. Produce is some of the cheapest food you can get at the grocery store, and it’s the perfect fuel for our bodies. Sure, most healthy diets also include meat, which is the most expensive, but meat is ideally consumed in moderation. Get your protein needs from plant sources like legumes, beans, and soy, and stock up on produce and healthy grains, and then add in some meat (or vitamin b12 supplements if you’re vegan/vegetarian), and you can eat three square meals a day on a budget. Plus, your life insurance will cost less. So that’s… a benefit. I guess. Does anybody have life insurance in their 20s? Hm.

You’ll feel better.

It’s almost like our food helps regulate our hormones. Crazy, right? Sarcasm aside, eating right keeps your mood regulated and helps you stay more upbeat. This is because when we eat right, we keep our blood sugar down and our vitamins and minerals up. This lessens our risk of depression and increases our feelings of well-being, our focus, and keeps our stress levels down by keeping the stress hormone cortisol at bay. Phew.

Though healthy eating does help with mood, it is not a substitute for antidepressants. Please consult with your doctor about your medication before ever stopping it yourself.

Okay. We’ve scratched the surface of why we all should eat healthy and have a well-rounded diet. There are tons of other reasons why healthy eating is vital to our lives, not the least of which is… our lives. Healthy diets keep us alive longer and make our lives better along the way. So, make those changes in your life and adopt healthier habits around your eating. Some changes you might want to consider include:

  • Limiting sweets and processed foods to take up only 20% of your diet (at most).

  • Adding more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

  • Eating a variety of colors of produce. Color corresponds to different vitamins and minerals, so a variety will make sure you cover your bases.

  • Drinking lots of water instead of other drinks.

  • Knowing how many calories you should be eating a day and be mindful not to exceed that number.

The effort to make the changes will pay off exponentially. Now, go treat yourself to some lettuce and go wild!

6 Simple Recipes That are Easy to Make and Taste Great

Now that February is here, are you still trying to eat healthy into the New Year? 

Whether it's berry smoothie bowls, sweet potato fries, grilled vegetable skewers, baked ratatouille, tomato pesto salmon, or shrimp asparagus stir fry - this step by step walkthrough video made by Tasty breaks down how easy it can be to keep up with your healthy eating goals!

Because a lot of healthy recipes can be made out of whole ingredients, it doesn't have to take a long time or be difficult to prepare a meal that tastes great and is great for you!

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