Mediterranean Diet Plan – Tips on How To Start and Follow a Complete Diet
Are you looking for a unique eating plan which helps you keep your heart and body healthy and also provide pleasure to your taste buds? If yes, the Mediterranean diet is the one you are looking for.
Let’s know the factual benefits of a Mediterranean diet with recorded studies and researches which can partly answer your question: WHY?
In 2013, University of Barcelona made a study on 7000 Participants. Many of them were diabetic, smokers and obese. They were made to adopt Mediterranean diet for five years. Results showed significant improvement in participant’s health. There is 30% risk reduction in acquiring cardiovascular diseases.
These results were published in New England Journal of Medicine and what followed further was groundbreaking. With further studies, it was also proven that Mediterranean diet plan helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Worth giving a try, isn’t it?
What is Mediterranean diet?
It is not a necessarily a typical weight loss diet but is a food habit developed by people living in the Mediterranean (Greece, Spain, and Italy). It is highly lenient to plant-based foods with olive oil, cereals, vegetables and moderate consumption of fish and dairy.
Mediterranean diet consists of fresh whole food rather than processed food. Vegetables, fruits, and legumes take up the large percentage of a meal as they are a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.
Olive oil is frequently used instead of butter or vegetable oil as it is rich in monounsaturated fat and is protective against heart diseases. Mediterranean diet meal plan can also contain fish taken often, poultry and egg taken less often. Read meat is mostly avoided.
Mediterranean diet pyramid created in 1993 by Oldways in collaboration with WHO, emphasizes firstly on maintaining social connections and on physical activities. As we move up the pyramid, it emphasizes on having the healthy whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, cereals, nuts and healthy fats. Wine is added to the diet as a beverage.
It might sound boring but Mediterranean diet recipes will be delicious and you don’t want to let even a bite to go waste.
The Mediterranean diet plan should be adopted as a way of life rather than as a weight loss diet because it the diet contains foods rich in fats. Don’t get confused because the fats are good fats like omega-3 which are more beneficial to heart and joints.
Key Components of the Mediterranean diet:
Olive Oil is the big proponent of the Mediterranean diet plan. It is obtained from crushing the olives, a fruit is grown in Mediterranean region. There are many grades of Olive oils and extra virgin olive oil followed by finely refined olive oil.
- It is rich in mono-unsaturated fats and low in saturated and trans fats.
- It contributes to lowering bad cholesterol(LDL).
- It prevents heart strokes due to its ability to limit LDL.
- If you want to shed some pounds, include olive oil in the diet replacing vegetable oil as it encourages good fat into the body.
- Other benefits include hair growth, skin beauty, reduces signs of aging and promotes good skin.
Wheat is one of the wholesome foods which is rich in nutrients. Its health benefits largely depend on the way you consume it. Products like bread, noodles, pasta etc extracted from wheat contain only 60% of the nutrition. Mediterranean diet ensures that you 100% nutrition from wholesome wheat without undergoing the process of extraction.
Value of Wheat includes:
- Rich in minerals, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E and Vitamin B
- Problems like mineral deficiency and obesity are controlled by consuming whole wheat.
- Prevents type 2 diabetes.
- Prevents Breast cancer.
Healthy Fats are the key aspects of Mediterranean diet. Apart from olive oil which is the source of healthy monounsaturated fats, there are foods which also provide polyunsaturated fats which promotes healthy food eating habits.
Fatty fishes like tuna, salmon, mackerel are rich sources of fatty acids are frequently included in the Mediterranean diet meal plan. These fatty acids help in
- Keeping your heart healthy.
- Improving the functioning of blood vessels.
- Maintaining moderate blood pressure.
Wine is probably the fun part of the Mediterranean diet plan. The ill effects of alcohol have been debated over past decades. However, if consumed in limited and moderated form, it is observed to have reduced heart diseases. Research shows that red wine containing Resveratrol may prevent head and neck cancer.
Do not get carried away and gulp the entire bottle. You should not consume more than 200 ml of wine daily i.e., 2 glasses a day. It is recommended to take wine along with the meal as a beverage.
However, if you cannot limit yourself from alcohol and if you are having any existing liver or heart diseases, it is best to avoid wine or any alcohol in the diet.
Fruits and Vegetables are the primary sources of fiber in the Mediterranean diet. They are naturally low in calories. So, it fits into Mediterranean diet menu for weight loss. US Agricultural Department recommends flooding the half of your plate with fruits and vegetables considering the amazing benefits they provide.
Apples are rich in antioxidants and with dietary fiber which keeps you full. Bananas are powerful fruit when taken in between breakfast and lunch. Tomatoes are packed with phytonutrients that a fat killer. They serve as anti-oxidants which helps in losing weight.
They are the very important sources of vitamins and minerals which are necessary for energizing your body. Dietary fiber in vegetables helps in
- Reducing bad cholesterol levels in the body.
- Preventing type 2 diabetes.
- Smooth bowel movement ultimately preventing constipation.
- Reducing the chances of developing coronary diseases.
- Preventing the development of kidney stones.
- Preventing the sugar from being released too quickly into the bloodstream.
Herbs and Spices may not only improve the taste of the food but also has health benefits. They have antibacterial and antiviral properties and are rich in vitamin-B. Breaking down herbs and spices in Mediterranean diet we will have primarily the below
- Cinnamon: It is observed to reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar levels. It also helps relieve nausea. It aids in fat burning and provides manganese, iron, and calcium.
- Garlic: It provides anti-cancer benefits by strengthening your immune system. It has been used as a culinary ingredient medicinally. A study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that eating a teaspoon of fresh garlic per day increases the levels of a key enzyme for removing toxins in the blood cells.
- Cumin: It is mostly used in Mexican and Spanish dishes. It provides a distinct and pleasant taste. It also has anti-microbial properties.
- Basil: It is considered as one of the healthiest herbs. It has anti-oxidants which can fight diseases. It also has been observed to provide cardiovascular health and fight depression. A cautionary note is that large quantities of basil are unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Yogurt contains probiotic bacteria that can improve the function of your gut. Make sure it is full-fat yogurt, studies show that full-fat dairy is associated with a reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes over time.
Low-fat yogurt is loaded with sugar which is why it is best to avoid it.A study presented at the Obesity Society Meeting of 2007 showed significant belly fat reduction following calcium products.
Yogurt has been identified as a calcium-rich food that helps burn fat which makes it a crucial to your weight loss diet. Eating yogurt every day can also boost your immune system. It can help you with quick weight loss because it is low in calories with only 120 calories in a cup.
Physical Activity is also given priority in the Mediterranean diet. It doesn’t mean that you have to hit the gym every day. A simple walk with friends and family is enough. People in Mediterranean region indulge themselves in walking along with friends which showed amazing benefits.
If you are in sedentary jobs, take few minute time in stretching and strolling around your office bay to somehow involve your body in activities.
As you can see the ingredients or key components in Mediterranean diet plan mostly focus on having a healthy lifestyle which can prevent developing chronic diseases. A study showed that large percentage of people in Mediterranean region died only because of old age and not because of any diseases.
So, Mediterranean diet may not be the best weight loss diet but surely is a healthy diet for increasing your lifespan. But there are some combinations which if adopted correctly may contribute to weight loss like including more vegetables and fruits in the diet.
How to Start Mediterranean Diet Plan?
Start small and do not surprise your body with a sudden change. Make sure that water should be your go-to beverage in this diet.
Having Mediterranean cuisine lunch or dinner in a restaurant will not qualify as the Mediterranean diet. You need to adopt this diet as a lifestyle if you want to see a better outcome. The important aspect most Dietitians observed in Mediterranean region is that people indulge themselves in social activities and have food with family.
A sample Mediterranean diet plan which you can start off include
- Yogurt, Oatmeal, a fruit. This is a suitable Mediterranean diet breakfast. You can also include an omelette with veggies and olives.
- Whole grain sandwich with veggies and baked potato. This can be adopted for lunch. You can also make do with salmon or tuna fish.
- Mediterranean pizza with cheese topping would make a delightful dinner. Salmon with brown rice is also a good choice.
Mediterranean Snacks include
- Any Fruit
- Sweet Potatoes
When you go to a restaurant ask them to use olive oil instead of any vegetable oil and always choose fish over red meat or chicken. Remember to have fruits as desserts.
Mediterranean diet Recipes:
Now that we know the key components of the Mediterranean diet plan, let us go on a journey to know how this diet can be made tasty.
As we know vegetables and salads take up a large percentage of the diet. Sounds raw and miserable? But you can taste it up with sauces and spices to make peace with your taste buds.
- Greek Salad includes cucumber, olives, and sauces. Additional vegetables can be added as per individual interests and tastes
- Lima Beans and Lemon Salmon includes fish and healthy beans. It tastes best with yogurt
- Salmon with Tomato and Olive Salad tastes best with honey-vinegar mixing.
These are some of the sample recipes which can help you maintain and be consistent with the Mediterranean diet plan.
Limitations/Cons of the Mediterranean diet:
It is not cost-effective. To follow a complete and consistent diet it costs a lot when compared to other diet plans. The ingredients which are key components in Mediterranean diet usually involve high costs.
You might face difficulties in finding the required foods as the some are only available in coastal regions like Mediterranean belt.
Although alcohol is allowed in the diet, it is not advisable for people having a history of diseases.
Calories intake and parameters of physical activities are not stated. So, people looking for exact numbers and amount of calories are sure to be disappointed.
This diet is rich in fats. If you are looking for high protein intake, then Mediterranean diet is probably not you.
It is important to understand that the Mediterranean diet plan is not developed by any professional doctors or dietician for better health results. This is an eating habit of people living in the Mediterranean region who showed increased lifespan which caught the worldwide attention.
So, it should be looked in the perspective of daily routine eating habit but not something as a restriction you put on yourself. Also, adopt only feasible components of the diet as it is not a cost-friendly diet.
Take a note of your goals and see if the Mediterranean diet meal plan fits into it. If it does, you can make use of different delicious recipes make your food tastier.