By Nina Radcliff, MD
Recently, I overheard two shoppers in line at the grocery store stating that they would not put their children “on any kind of diet, they don’t have a weight problem!” The shoppers were referencing the Mediterranean diet, which was featured on one of the magazines at check-out. I understand the word diet is often misused. And in hindsight, I wish I had spoken up to tell them that although the word “diet” is often taken to mean changing your food and nutrition intake to lose weight, the true form of the word is the “sum of food consumed.”
Perhaps this particular conversation caught my ear since I have studied (and follow) the Mediterranean Diet. I find it to be sensible, tasty, and achieving the “GOLD Standard” for an eating pattern that promotes lifelong good health. Furthermore, this healthy ‘eating plan’ has received a lot of buzz recently for its reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, depression, death from heart disease and cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Let’s take a closer look.
Dr. Nina Radcliff’s What You Need To Know: About the Mediterranean “Eating Plan:”
Fruit and vegetables. They are “ripe” with antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients and should be included in every meal and incorporated into snacking. However, it takes a village; no single fruit or vegetable can provide all the healthy components you need. I recommend eating “across the rainbow:” red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple (a combination of indigo and violet). In other words incorporate all types and colors to get the full spectrum of benefits.
Whole grains. They include wheat, corn, oats, quinoa, barley, popcorn, and rye. These “whole-some” foods contain phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, and vitamins B and E. All kinds of good stuff. In addition to tasting yummy, studies have shown that people who eat three daily servings of whole grains may be able to reduce their risk of heart disease by 25-36%, stroke by 37%, and diabetes by 21-27%.
Legumes (le-gyums). This funny word describes a class of veggies that includes lentils, beans, and peas. Legumes are low in fat, devoid of cholesterol, a good source of protein, and a powerhouse when it comes to folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Their protein content makes it suitable to supplement or substitute for meat.
Nuts and seeds. Not only are they are good sources of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, but they are fun to snack on or use as a garnish for salads and meals. Because they can be high in calories, they should be consumed in moderation.
Swap unhealthy fats with healthy fats. Not all fats are bad for you. The Mediterranean diet uses olive oil as the primary source of fat. Olive oil is mainly monosaturated fat which decreases “bad cholesterol” levels. Additionally, virgin and extra-virgin forms contain powerful antioxidant effects. So put the butter and margarine in the back of the refrigerator and reach for olive oil the next time you want to sauté, drizzle, flavor, or dip food into.
Swap the salt shaker for herbs and spices. Shake away that salt habit by utilizing herbs and spices to flavor your food. Incorporate parsley, thyme, marjoram, chives, paprika, rosemary, onions, and garlic for a flavorful meal.
Swap the red meat for fish and poultry. Studies have shown that the more red meat that a person consumes, the higher their rate for premature death. Consider limiting consumption of red meat to a few times a month. And when you do, make sure it is lean, not processed, and in small amounts.
Let’s face it, “going on a diet” is no fun. In fact the word diet has a negative connotation of deprivation, whether it be types or quantities of food. Alternatively, swapping out unhealthy items for those that are tasty AND healthy can sweeten the deal (figuratively, of course). It is more palatable to find a healthy eating plan that you can live by, and live longer and healthier as a result of using its guiding principles. And yes, I vow to speak up.
Learn more by viewing Dr. Nina Radcliffs’ website www.drninaradcliff.com