Whether you wish to incorporate healthier eating habits in order to lose weight, improve heart and brain health, increase your energy levels or just as part of a healthier general lifestyle, there are myriad dieting programs to choose from. So many, in fact, that finding the best one for your needs and lifestyle can be challenging.
In the last several decades, tons of dieting programs have made the news or enjoyed spurts of fame and popularity. Some of these diets are simply fads that fade quickly into obscurity while others have shown promise and remain popular. Many diets incorporate similar eating and lifestyle habits, and others are directly contradictory. The abundance of available diets and conflicting reports from the media can be confusing, and you may not know where to begin.
One diet that emphasizes the consumption of good fats, lean meats and whole grains, along with regular physical activity and social interaction, is the Mediterranean Diet. Named for the region where many of the diet’s foods are abundant and regularly consumed, the Mediterranean has been tried and tested for decades, and today, it is recommended by doctors, chefs and celebrities alike. In fact, studies have shown that adhering to the Mediterranean Diet can improve heart health and increase your lifespan.
The Mediterranean Diet Overview
There are several regions of the world where people enjoy the longest lifespans, and they all have a few things in common, especially strong family ties a dedication to healthy eating. Second only to Japan, the Mediterranean region, including Greece, Italy, Spain and France, is home to the largest number of people who live well into their 80s and beyond. In fact, nearly half of the Mediterranean’s inhabitants reach the age of 85.
One of the biggest reasons, according to experts, could be their eating habits. Inhabitants of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea consume fresh fish, olive oil and locally grown produce regularly. They drink moderate amounts of wine and typically avoid sweets. These dietary habits are the basis of one of the world’s most popular mainstream diets: The Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean Diet has remained popular over the years for several key reasons. Studies have shown that adhering to the diet for an extended period of time reduces the risk of colon cancer, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s. Because the diet is rich in Omega-3s, monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, it also leads to lower cholesterol and may improve your overall cognitive health.
In addition, the Mediterranean Diet focuses not just on what, but how, we eat and how our food choices affect our local community and the health of the planet in general. Eating locally as often as possible and enjoying meals with family and friends are integral components of the Mediterranean Diet.
Celebrities Who Endorse The Mediterranean Diet
- Anyone who saw the 2016 thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane likely noticed that star John Goodman looked more trim and healthy than he has in years. How did he do it? Goodman reportedly lost around 100 pounds and feels great thanks largely to the Mediterranean Diet.
- Other high-profile celebrities who stay healthy via the Mediterranean Diet include Brooke Burke, Rachael Ray and Susan Lucci.
- In her 2016 book of lifestyle tips, The Longevity Book, actress Cameron Diaz recommends exercising regularly, strengthening social connections and following the Mediterranean Diet.
- An Oscar-winning actress and longtime vegetarian, Penelope Cruz refers to the Mediterranean as “her” diet. “It is good food. I eat well,” says Cruz.
- Professional chef Cat Cora calls the Mediterranean Diet “one of the healthiest,” due to its emphasis on consuming less sweet treats and more fruits, veggies, nuts, fresh fish and lean meats, and yogurt.
- Celebrity doctor David Perlmutter endorses the Mediterranean Diet because it’s rich in fruits and vegetables and includes high levels of antioxidants yet is low in sodium.
Implementing the Mediterranean Diet into Your Life
If the Mediterranean Diet sounds like something you might benefit from, as so many people have, getting started is easy once you understand the diet’s principles and basics.
Foods to Reduce or Avoid
Cutting back on sweetened beverages and added sugars may take some getting used to, but reducing your sugar intake is a key component of the Mediterranean Diet. Your consumption of red meat should be minimal, a few times a month at most, and try to totally avoid processed foods, butter, refined oils and refined grains.
The best way to change your eating habits, especially if processed foods and sweet drinks are a major part of your diet, is to do it gradually. First, switch out refined grains for whole grains. Next, cut out the processed meats and high-calorie takeout food. You’ll find that each subsequent dietary change just gets easier.
Foods to Include
A great way to introduce the Mediterranean Diet into your life is by visiting your local farmer’s market. Consult one of the cookbooks discussed below for meal-planning tips, or pick up your favorite fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods, including whole grains, legumes and nuts, are the cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet. The following tips will help you get started:
• Eat yogurt, cheese, eggs and poultry only moderately.
• Don’t skimp on the olive oil.
• Instead of salt, use herbs and spices for flavoring, especially rosemary.
• If you eat meat, choose fish and fresh seafood rather than chicken, pork or beef.
Other Lifestyle Changes You Can Implement
Friends and family are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet, both because they can provide support as you work to improve your health and because positive social interaction is important to our overall happiness and health. Set up a regular get-together with your loved ones, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, where you can share new recipes and build strong ties.
Make sure to stay physical. Whether that means regularly walking to the store or work instead of driving, hiking along your favorite nature trail or heading to the gym is up to you. One of the best parts of the Mediterranean Diet is that it allows for flexibility and personalization.
You should also avoid eating late at night, and if you consume alcohol, switch to red wine in moderation.
Mediterranean Diet Resources
If you’re ready to improve your health and lose weight, you can give the delicious yet nutrient-rich Mediterranean Diet a try. You don’t need “products” or special gadgets to make the Mediterranean Diet work for you, although you may find meal planning notebooks, calendars or fitness trackers to be helpful tools as you adjust to your new diet and lifestyle habits.
Due to the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet, there’s no shortage of great books out there with helpful tips and recipes for all kinds of delicious dishes, from full meals to quick snacks and everything in between. There following books can help you get started:
The Longevity Book by Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bark
A New York Times bestseller written with women’s health in mind, The Longevity Book is not completely about the Mediterranean Diet per se, but it offers steps designed to help women go “back to basics” and grow old gracefully while staying healthy and fit.
The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners
Published by Rockridge Press, The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners is a great option if you need help with meal planning and easing yourself into the diet. The book features 40 creative and easy-to-follow recipes, with ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Mediterranean Table: Simple Recipes for Healthy Living on the Mediterranean Diet
This cookbook from Sonoma Press is a great option for those new to Mediterranean food and who want to expand their culinary horizons. The more than 150 recipes in The Mediterranean Table use fresh, simple ingredients, and most have a total cook/prep time of 30 minutes or less, perfect for a busy lifestyle.
The Complete Mediterranean Diet by Michael Ozner, MD
A comprehensive yet accessible guide to the Mediterranean Diet written by a top cardiologist, The Complete Mediterranean Diet illustrates, in simple terms free of technical jargon, how changing your dietary habits can help you lose weight and lower your risk of heart disease. It also features 500 Mediterranean recipes for you to try at home.
In our technologically advanced modern world, people are becoming more aware of their food choices for a variety of reasons, both old and new. Health and longevity, as well as looking and feeling our best, have always been things we strive for.
However, people are also increasingly conscious of how our lifestyle impacts the world around us. We’re more aware than ever of how our daily choices, such as where we shop and how we source our food, affect the natural environment as well as our friends, family and community.
The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes both healthy eating and the importance of strong community ties, making its a great choice for your busy modern lifestyle.