It’s time to party! May is National Mediterranean Diet Month, so let’s celebrate! Among the many diets promoting health benefits, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the few I actually recommend. With emphasis on fruits, veggies, beans, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats it’s an all-star diet that has been proven to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Sounds great, huh?
While other diets are strict, the Mediterranean Diet leaves room for flexibility and emphasizes foods, without restriction. Here are some key components:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Enjoying meals with family and friends
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
- Getting plenty of exercise
As you can see, the idea behind the Mediterranean Diet is not only about including more of the foods that are good for us, but also including more healthy lifestyle behaviors such as eating with family and friends and getting exercise! I want to discuss one of the key components a little further—incorporating more healthy fats, such as olive oil into your meals.
There has been research showing quality evidence that plant oils, such as olive oil, have positive health benefits such as reducing risk for stroke and heart attack. Some fun facts about olive oil include:
- Contains antioxidants
- Has anti-inflammatory properties
- Has anti-bacterial properties
I recommend using extra-virgin olive oil or EVOO as this variety has the most health benefits. This is because EVOO is extracted from olives using only pressure (a process called cold pressing). Olive oil is great drizzled over a salad, mixed into a salad dressing, used in marinades for meat, fish, poultry or veggies, drizzled over whole grain pasta, and much much more!
You can also try including other unsaturated fats like olive oil in your diet such as fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines), nuts, seeds, and avocado.
Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan. (2017, November 3). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801