Looking for a healthy diet that’s proven to work? Consider the Mediterranean diet, which has basically been in use in several parts of Europe for centuries. This diet is packed with healthy fats to help you get lean and fit. Plus, it has tons of great health benefits beyond weight loss. Read this article to learn more about the Mediterranean diet, including what foods it includes and the many health benefits it provides.
Why It’s Healthy
The Mediterranean diet enjoys a rich history that extends back thousands of years. The diet is based on what residents of the Mediterranean coastal region generally eat. Naturally, this means the diet reflects foods that are naturally available in that location and climate. When researchers realized that people living in the Mediterranean region tend to live very long lives and have a relatively low incidence of chronic disease, they took notice. Years and years of research has continued to prove that the Mediterranean diet provides a wealth of health benefits that helps people to live longer, disease-free lives. This is thanks to the fact that the diet includes lots of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals condensed into satisfying and filling foods.
It’s worth noting that people in this area of the world also tend to get plenty of regular exercise, which helps them to keep a weight and avoid many chronic diseases and conditions. Therefore, this diet can lead to weight loss and the maintenance of a healthy weight when combined with adequate physical activity.
What to Eat on a Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet consists of lots of delicious and flavorful foods that make it a fairly easy diet to follow. The basis for the diet consists of several key items, each of which can be consumed daily since they are the foundation for the diet:
- Whole grains: Breads, pastas and rice are all key components of the Mediterranean diet. These should be composed of whole grains rather than grains that have been refined, a process which causes the grains to lose much of their nutritional value. The whole grains are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables should be a part of every meal since they are low in fat and sodium while being chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Olive oil: If you plan to follow this diet, stock up on extra virgin olive oil. It’s a healthy, monosaturated fat that is better for you than butter or margarine, so use it for cooking, dressing, etc.
- Beans, nuts and seeds: These plant-based foods are key to a Mediterranean diet because they provide protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.
- Herbs and spices: Instead of adding salt to your foods, use fresh herbs and spices to provide flavor.
In addition to these basic items, there are several other components of the traditional Mediterranean diet. The following items are included in the diet but should not be eaten as regularly or in as great amount as the foods mentioned above:
- Fish and seafood: Since this diet plan is based on the eating habits of a coastal region, it’s no surprise that fish and seafood are key food items in this diet. Fish and seafood provide much of the protein your body needs while keeping away unhealthy fats and should be eaten at least twice a week.
- Poultry: Poultry is another healthy protein source in the Mediterranean diet that should be eaten at least twice a week.
- Eggs: Although a good protein source, those eating a Mediterranean diet should limit their intake of eggs to about once a week.
- Low-fat dairy: Dairy products are included, but only when low in fat. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, cheeses and yogurts, and only use these as small sides or additions to your meal.
Finally, here are a few things to eat very sparingly when on a Mediterranean diet:
- Red meat: Limit your intake of red meat to just a few times a month since there can be many unhealthy fats in this protein source.
- Red wine: Drink wine in moderation, which means no more than a glass per day for women and two glasses per day for men.
- Sweets: It goes without saying that you shouldn’t eat lots of sweets, but the Mediterranean does allow for the occasional, small splurge on something sweet.
Several studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet can produce weight loss results. In fact, it’s been shown to have better weight loss results than a low-fat diet in some studies. Simply eating healthy foods like whole grains, nuts, beans, fruits and veggies isn’t enough to lose more than a few pounds for most people, however. It’s important to remember that you will only get significant weight loss results if you combine this diet with regular exercise. Make sure you are getting some kind of physical activity every day, and try to work out at least a few days a week for the best results.
Other Health Benefits
In addition to helping you to lose weight, the Mediterranean diet provides a host of amazing health benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic diseases. In addition, many people on this diet have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.