As per the U.S. News and World Report evaluated and ranked the Mediterranean Diet at number 1 as “Best Diets Overall” and “Easiest Diet to Follow” for the year 2018 based on input from a panel of health experts. This diet is rich in diverse plant based foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, lean proteins, healthy fats and low-fat dairy – and yes, red wine in moderation (occasional one glass per day).
This diet is in fact a style of eating, which upholds the social and composed attributes of enjoying food such as sitting down to meals (instead of gobbling in front of TV like the most people do).
This diet and lifestyle has been shown in several large studies to be the healthiest eating pattern world wide; and is thus universally advocated by diet experts and top medical professionals.
What Are The Key Ingredients Of Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet pyramid sets up dietary daily, weekly and occasional guidelines so as to adhere to a healthy and balanced diet. It put emphasis on activity and social connections – so, you will find them at base of the pyramid. Moving upward, you’ll find foods of plant origin such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts – the core foods that should enjoy every day. Then come healthy fats like olive oil, herbs and spices that too you need daily, but in variable amounts. Fish and seafood are basically consumed few times a week, and eggs, poultry, dairy foods – particularly fermented dairy like yogurt & traditional cheese – are consumed frequently in moderate portions. Red meat and sweets are scarcely eaten. Lots of water, and occasional wine (for those who drink) play an important role.
Let us delve a little further:
The three main meals should comprise of following key components:
(i) Healthy Grains / Cereals: One or two servings of whole grain sources in each meal – whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner; in the form of bread, pasta, rice, etc. They are chock full of fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties.
While usual whole grains include wheat, brown rice and oats, the others less common, but gluten-free are quinoa, amaranth, farro, buckwheat, and bulgur.
(ii) Vegetables. Include these plant-based foods, more or equal to 2 servings per meal, in your 2 meals – may be lunch and dinner. Choose a diversity of colors and textures so as to get a variety of antioxidants & protective compounds. Opt for raw, grilled, steamed, sautéed or roasted, but make sure at least one of the servings is raw (salad).
(iii) Fruits: One or two servings per meal. Eat as much variety of fruit as possible. Can be eaten when you normally crave for sugar during the day.
(iv) Proteins: Mediterranean diet traditionally based more on plant protein than animal protein. The good plant protein like beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds are eaten more often than animal protein. Animal proteins included are mainly fish and shellfish, and the seafood that are packed with omega 3 fatty acids. Some of the good seafood that contain healthy fat are mackerel, salmon, arctic char, oysters and anchovies. Eggs are also eaten because of its protein content.
(v) Healthy Fats: The saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats) are discouraged and focus is on extra virgin olive oil (the least processed form) as the main source of fat.
Fatty fish are the other source of healthy fat in Mediterranean diet, which are consumed on a regular basis in a Mediterranean diet. Mackerel, salmon, sardines, lake trout, herring, albacore tuna are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
(v) Red Wine: The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes a moderate amount of red wine. It should not exceed 5 ounces (150 milliliters) daily for men or women over age 65, and not more than 10 ounces (296 milliliters) daily for men under age 65.
Caution: If you tend to exceed your alcohol intake beyond the limits defined above, if you have liver issues or if you have a family or personal history of alcohol abuse, stay away from drinking wine or for that matter any other type of alcohol.
(vi) Water: Although water needs may vary from person to person depending upon age, physical activity, and weather conditions – the Mediterranean diet emphasis a daily intake of about 1.5 to 2 liters. In addition to water, rich herbal infusions (without sugar) and broths (with low fat & less salt content) may be taken to complete the water needs.
(vii) Low Fat Dairy Products: Choose low fat milk (not more than 2% fat), yogurt and cheese. They play an important role for bone health.
(viii) Spices, Herbs, Garlic And Onion:Herbs and spices are a good way to infuse flavor and taste into dishes and help in reduction of your salt consumption.
Some Useful Tips Of Mediterranean Diet
(a) Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This oil plays a very important role and so placed at the center of the pyramid. All over the Mediterranean region, saturated or trans fats are not used. For example the people in this region eat bread either plain or dipped in olive oil – not with butter or margarines because they contain saturated or trans fats.
(b) Sweets And Meats: The sugary, unhealthy fat rich foods (sweets) and red meat are bad for your health, so placed in the vertex of the pyramid. They should be eaten in small amounts and that too rarely. Keep away from sausage, bacon & other high-fat meats.
(c) Nuts And Seeds: Keep almonds, walnuts, pistachios and other healthy nuts handy for a quick snack. Go for natural peanut butter instead of the kinds with hydrogenated fat – saturated and trans fats. Consider tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for whole grain bread.
Note: Nuts are chock full of fat (about eighty percent of their calories come from fat), and most of the fat is not saturated. As nuts are high in calories, they should only be eaten in moderation, not more than a handful per day. Steer clear off honey-roasted or candied and too much salted nuts.