The famous Mediterranean diet – although I consider it more of a lifestyle than a diet – is one that is shared by the people living along the Mediterranean Sea. We tend to associate this eating style with those living in Italy, France, and Greece, but it includes many other countries such as Morrocco, Egypt, Spain, and Turkey, just to name a few. It is no surprise to me that this way of eating is one of the healthiest, if not THEEEE healthiest – full of variety, antioxidants, healthy fats, anti-inflammatory ingredients and not to mention packed full of flavour. Not everyone is familiar with the Mediterranean eating style and it is not difficult to start. Here are 5 essentials to get you started and help you reap the benefits of the Mediterranean Way:
- Olive Oil. This healthy monounsaturated fat is a key staple of the Mediterranean diet. It’s tremendous health benefits can be attributed to the high polyphenol content and anti-inflammatory action of this oil. Regular intake can help improve lipid parameters, support the function of blood vessels and a healthy blood pressure. Don’t over do it though as like any fat, eating too much olive oil can increase your caloric intake fast if you are trying to lose weight. A good place to start is incorporating 1-2 tbsp daily in the form of salad dressing or adding flavour to meals.
Pro Tip – purchase in dark glass bottle in smaller quantities and look for the symbol of the North American Olive Oil Association to ensure quality
- Eat more legumes such as beans, lentils, chickpeas. They are high in fibre and protein and low in fat, making a great meat substitute and helping you feel full longer. They are also a great source of folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium which is essential for healthy blood pressure.
Pro Tip – soaking beans overnight and changing the water once or twice can help make them easier to digest.
- Snack on nuts and seeds. They also provide a great source of unsaturated fats as well as a variety of minerals, fibre and a little bit of protein. They can help 1-2 small handfuls daily is all you need. They have a cholesterol-lowering effect as well as helping to reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and blood vessel health. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans and macademia nuts are good choices. Also, don’t forget sesame seeds and tahini, as well as flax and chia to boost your fibre intake.
Pro Tip – choose raw, unsalted, and keep stored in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve the healthy fats. Nuts and nut butter (such as almond butter) pair well with a piece of fruit or spread on some celery for a light snack.
- Incorporate more fish and seafood at least twice/week. They contain long chain omega fats important for heart and brain health.
Pro Tip – choose small cold water fish and wild caught if possible. Salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel are the best options for their omega 3 content.
- Tomatoes! (and of course other Fruits and vegetables) – Tomato sauce and tomato paste are excellent sources of lycopene, a key antioxidant for health, as well as other vitamins and minerals, phytosterols, amino acids, fibre and many other antioxidants. Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their bright red colour. Tomatoes have numerous health benefits such as protection against eye disease, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease to name a few.
Pro Tip – cooked tomatoes with olive oil increases the bioavailability of the lycopene. Be sure to look for low sodium versions. And if you suffer from heart burn, you may want to limit or avoid tomato based products.
Disclaimer: The information presented on this site does not constitute medical advice and does not replace the advice from your doctor. Always consult a qualified health care professional when changing or beginning a new health plan.
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