Studies show that the Mediterranean diet is ideal for long and healthy life. It comprises all the essential nutrients needed from food for a balanced diet. In this diet, you are required to increase the intake of fresh vegetables and fruits, and shun the processed food products. The article presents an overview of the foods to take and avoid along with a 5-day meal plan.
Today, health experts around the world suggest the Mediterranean diet for a healthy and long life. While a modern mind would probably fancy exquisite Italian pasta at the mention of the Mediterranean food, it goes way beyond that.
Back in the 1960s, people from Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean regions followed eating habits that protected them from chronic diseases. In those times, the Mediterranean countries were known to have one of the world’s highest life expectancies, and the least health issues.
Before the Westernisation of food patterns, the Mediterranean diet referred to the area’s traditional vegetables, fruits, oils, and other staples. With the rise in lifestyle diseases, more and more dietitians have started advocating the adoption of the Mediterranean diet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the Mediterranean way of eating as sustainable and eco-friendly. Given below is a complete guide to learning and adapting to the Mediterranean diet plan:
What is the Mediterranean diet plan?
The Mediterranean diet plan mainly relies upon the greater intake of plant-based food products and limited consumption of meat products. It is composed of dietary practices that significantly lower the risk of health problems like diabetes, cancer, depression, heart attacks, obesity, etc. The diet includes the following foods:
Mediterranean Diet Foods to Eat:
- Regular intake of fruits and vegetables
- Frequent consumption of whole grains and legumes
- Daily use of olive oil, nuts, and seeds as a source of fats
- A moderate intake of dairy products
- Occasional consumption of eggs, meat, fish, and wine
- Seldom intake of honey and added sugars
The proportion of different components in the Mediterranean diet are adequate to provide you with well-balanced nutrition. It primarily focuses on the use of monounsaturated fat resources and avoidance of saturated and trans-fat ones. The former is generally categorized into healthy fats as they lend multiple health benefits.
Since it is not really easy to change your eating habits and switch to an entirely different food routine abruptly, you can begin with eliminating the unhealthy options first.
Mediterranean Diet Foods to Avoid:
Prior to following a strict Mediterranean diet plan, you need to shun certain types of food such as
- Butter and refined oils
- Refined grains like white bread and pasta, pizza, and food products made from white or refined flour
- Processed and packaged food products
- Red meat
- Desserts with high added sugars
The above-listed food products are associated with several health disorders because of their constituency and low nutritional value. In addition, you must always read the food labels carefully, as some health-claiming products also contain unhealthy ingredients.
Once you have accomplished abstinence from unhealthy food choices, you can move on to a disciplined Mediterranean diet chart.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
A typical Mediterranean diet covers all the essential nutrients and minerals that boost your immunity against common chronic illnesses. Hence, it guards you against a range of health issues. Research studies reveal that the Mediterranean diet also enhances the quality of sleep and reduces frailties, especially in older age. Illustrated below are the key beneficial components of Mediterranean food:
#1 Made of good fats
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes foods with monounsaturated fats. These types of fats protect you from obesity, heart diseases, and cholesterol problems.
#2 High in fiber
The diet involves high fiber content like fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Dietary fiber plays an important role in digestion and hence reduces the risk of diabetes and gastric issues.
#3 Rich in antioxidants
Mediterranean foods are enriched with antioxidant vitamins and minerals. These ingredients regulate growth and inhibit the damage of cells. In other words, antioxidants act as powerful anti-cancer agents.
#4 Low in bad sugar
The diet focuses on natural sugar provided by fresh fruits and advises against the processed sugars. These natural sugars make up for the required calorie needs and protect you from obesity-related complications.
The traditional Mediterranean culture basically advocates a moderate way of eating, in contrast to the modern fad diets, which often result in deficiencies.
Drawbacks of the Mediterranean Diet
Before following the Mediterranean diet, you need to be aware of your existing health issues and other preferences. Given below are some problems that may arise due to the Mediterranean diet:
- Need for Additional Guidance
People suffering from diabetes, gluten intolerance, or high cholesterol must ask their physician prior to starting the Mediterranean diet. This is because the diet includes fat, gluten, and carbohydrate resources like nuts, whole grains, olive oil, fruits, etc.
- Low levels of Nutrients
The Mediterranean diet promotes the limited intake of dairy products, meats, and similar foods. If you have calcium or iron deficiency, these foods need to be taken in more amounts than present in Mediterranean foods.
5-Day Mediterranean Diet Plan
A great way to kick-start a healthy lifestyle is to add diversity to your food menu. This way, you get to enjoy different food products and also stay motivated. Eating healthy never means you can’t have delicious food. Listed below are some amazing options you can incorporate into your 5-day routine:
|1||Greek yogurt with fresh berries, oats, and nuts||Mediterranean pizza made with whole wheat, topped with cheese, vegetables, and olives.||Grilled vegetable kebabs with olive oil and vinegar dressing, along with quinoa and nuts salad|
|2||Whole-grain bread sandwich stuffed with fresh vegetables and low-fat cheese||A bowl of Greek salad – peppers, olives, cucumber, onion, tomato, and feta cheese with olive oil and vinegar dressing.||Tuna salad and some fruits for dessert|
|3||Omelette topped with vegetables and olives||Stewed vegetables with a herb sauce along with grilled chicken||Salad with tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese. A slice of multigrain bread|
|4||Whole-grain oats sprinkled with nuts, raisins, dates, cinnamon, and honey /maple syrup||Roasted chicken and vegetables in olive oil and lemon and half a cup of couscous||1 roasted potato with grilled salmon|
|5||1 Pan-fried egg with whole-grain toast||whole wheat pasta with roasted chicken and vegetables in tomato sauce||Stewed vegetables in a herb and tomato sauce|
While preparing the above menu for yourself, keep the following things in mind:
- For stuffing or topping your recipes, you can add vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, onions, olives, zucchini, spinach, etc.
- For roasting or frying various foods, use virgin olive oil in a moderate amount.
- When making boiled vegetable recipes, add several types of legumes like peas and beans.
- Always opt for fruits in place of artificial sugar-filled desserts. The Mediterranean diet usually includes fruits like apples, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, raspberries, blackberries, oranges, avocados, figs, dates, melons, peaches, and bananas.
- The recommended nuts and seeds are walnuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, sesame seeds, etc.
Apart from these above meals, there will be times when you crave an evening snack. During these times, it is best to go for the following options:
- A handful of toasted nuts and seeds
- Fresh fruit slices with almond butter
- Few raw carrots
- A small serving of Greek yogurt
- Dried fruits like apricots
- Some grapes, berries, or similar fruits
Most of the research studies and scientific evidence show the positive impact of the Mediterranean diet on the overall health of the human body. However, along with this diet chart, you also need to embrace an active lifestyle for long-term benefits.
Although a healthy person rarely experiences any side effects of the Mediterranean diet, some people may experience a few complications. It is always better to consult an expert before adopting the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Undoubtedly, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest and tastiest ways to eat. However, for best results, you must stick to a moderate workout routine along with the Mediterranean diet for a healthy body.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Does the consumption of nuts cause weight gain?
A. Nuts contain healthy fats, which help you reduce weight and keep away from heart problems. They also lend wholesome nutritional value, unlike unhealthy fats. However, it is better to consume them in moderate amounts. Most nutritionists advise a daily consumption of 30 grams of nuts.
Q. Is wine allowed in the Mediterranean diet?
A. Yes, the diet allows for a limited intake of wine, especially red wine. While 1-2 glasses of wine do not cause any harm, yet avoid drinking it in heavy quantities. Further, the Mediterranean diet discourages the consumption of hard liquor.
Q. Will the Mediterranean diet make me feel hungry or starved?
A. Considering the balanced nature of Mediterranean foods, they are unlikely to make you feel starved or hungry. Since the diet includes optimal quantities of nuts, whole grains, and other healthy sources of calories, it will suffice in making you feel full.
Q. Is the Mediterranean diet more expensive than a standard Western diet?
A. Owing to the wide range of food components, the Mediterranean diet may cost slightly more than the standard Western diet. The accurate prices of different food products depend upon your region and country. Besides, if you mostly rely on easy-to-get fast foods, the overall expenses of Mediterranean foods might comparatively be lesser.
Q. Are Mediterranean foods easily accessible?
A. Yes, you can find most of the Mediterranean foods in your local grocery store. The food products in the Mediterranean diet are just the basic and commonly available vegetables, fruits, dairy products, nuts, whole grains, etc. So, you can conveniently access many Mediterranean foods.