The average life expectancy in world is 67.07 years; the United States is 78.37 years and the number one country for life expectancy is Monaco on the northern shore of the Mediterranean sea at 89.7 years. Many of us have heard about the ‘Mediterranean’ diet and there is something to it according to numerous studies, and, the cold stats that show people in Italy living until 81.7 and Monaco exceeding the U.S. by over 10 years.
What is the Mediterranean diet? Simply put it is the diet you know you should be on. It is the low fat, low sugar, healthy protein diet. It is not just a list of food to eat or avoid, it is a lifestyle that keeps the people in the Mediterranean young and more importantly healthy. A wider look at the Mediterranean diet includes exercise and social activities including eating in groups and lingering over meals to aid digestion.
If you are interested in moving over to a Mediterranean diet you are looking at the traditional cuisines of Southern Italy, Spain, and Greece. Most sources agree on the framework of the diet but there are many variations because it isn’t Weight Watchers, it is the daily diet of 200 million people. The principles are simple; the thing you should eat most is green veggies. For flavor use olive oil and spices such as cumin and go light on the salt. The daily proteins are fish, dairy, poultry and eggs. A few times a month red meat and a small glass of red wine 3-4 times a week. Dessert should be fresh fruits and sweet Greek yogurt. As you can see, this is a heart healthy, cholesterol healthy diet. Total fat is 25% to 35% of calories, with saturated fat at 8% or less of calories. As a bonus, you will probably loose weight if you had been eating meat and potatoes daily.
Some people are not ready to completely change their cooking style to completely meet the Mediterranean diet but there are a few key things that will still bring in some of the healthy benefits.
Use olive oil instead of butter on your bread and instead of dressing on salads. Olive Oil is very flavorful and also contains monounsaturated fats, or ‘good’ fats.
Add a salad to your meal. Salad is not just a weak bowl of tasteless iceberg lettuce, jazz it up with feta cheese and capers and use romaine or a blend of lettuces. Salads are also a great place to add cold (leftover) sweet peas or corn. You might be surprised how filling a real salad can be. The fiber this adds to your diet is valuable as well as the vitamins in whatever greens you put in there.
Those two changes might be enough to convince you to look at a few recipes for fish or other Mediterranean dishes. The Mediterranean is more then just low fat and studies have shown that low fat diets improve health but the Mediterranean style diets improve it even more. Try a few food changes and don’t forget the other aspects of the lifestyle; eat with friends, exercise, and enjoy life.