The Mediterranean diet is one of the most recommended diet plans for adults and seniors as it promotes good overall health and reduces one’s risks of chronic illnesses. Not only that, studies revealed that the Mediterranean diet can also be a good memory help for seniors who are experiencing cognitive decline.
You might be wondering why it is called “Mediterranean” and why you should choose this kind of diet. To answer that question, I will be discussing the definition of the Mediterranean diet, its amazing benefits, as well as ideas on how to prepare this kind of diet. Interested? Read on to learn more!
What is Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is first coined by Physiologist Ancel Keys and his wife Margeret Keys. After conducting various studies about diet and nutrition in the Western and Mediterranean regions, they discovered that the traditional diet in Mediterranean countries contributes to the long lifespan of the people there.
This discovery made the world realize the importance of a healthy diet in promoting life longevity and avoiding chronic illnesses. In fact, in 1959, Ancel and Margaret were able to write their book, “Eat Well, Stay Well” which contains essential information about practicing a healthy diet, or known as the Mediterranean diet.
What are the Benefits of the Diet?
The Mediterranean diet offers a ton of benefits to your overall health such as the following:
- Enhance memory and brain function - Numerous studies state Mediterranean diet can indeed promote brain function among younger and older adults. This is because the Mediterranean diet helps you avoid foods high in trans fat, thus will reduce the risk of high cholesterol levels which is one of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia.
- Improves bone and muscle function - For our muscles and bones to stay strong, our body needs to absorb enough nutrients. The Mediterranean diet is loaded with nutrients necessary for our bone and muscle health. A study conducted on the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and bone health suggests that there is a positive correlation between the two variables.
- Reduces risk of heart disease - Some of the culprits of heart disease are due to uncontrolled intake of foods high in trans fat and sugar. The Mediterranean diet helps reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, based on numerous studies, the Mediterranean diet is a good practice to avoid heart disease as this diet plan consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
- Reduces risk of diabetes type 2 - Diabetes is usually caused by an unhealthy diet and obesity. According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, it stated that foods in a Mediterranean diet can play a vital role in the anti-inflammatory processes in our body necessary to prevent diabetes.
- Promotes longer life - A study conducted in reference to the 7 countries study concluded that the Mediterranean diet indeed promotes overall health and longer lifespan by reducing the risks of getting diseases such as cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and dementia.
How to Prepare Mediterranean Diet?
Now that you know where the Mediterranean diet came from and why it is beneficial for one’s health, let’s now put our focus on how to apply this knowledge in preparing a Mediterranean diet.
Foods You Should Choose
Let’s first discuss the foods that you should choose in preparing your Mediterranean diet. For starters, the diet should be composed of:
- Vegetables - Include a variety of vegetables in your diet such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Fruits - You can choose from a variety of nutrient-rich fruits like melon, banana, berries, dates, grapes, peaches, etc.
- Legumes - This food variety includes lentils, peanuts, peas, or beans.
- Herbs and spices - This can be good as tea or as add-ons to your meals such as cinnamon, mint, basil, sage, garlic, or pepper.
- Whole grains - These include, wheat, oats, pasta, corn, or rice(preferably brown).
- Nuts - Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews are just a few examples of nutrient/vitamin-rich nuts.
- Poultry - This includes chicken or turkey meat and eggs (e.g., quail, chicken, or duck eggs).
- Healthy fats - Good sources of healthy fats include olive oil and avocado oil.
- Dairy products- Though this should be eaten in small amounts, dairy products like milk, cheese, or yogurt are good choices for a Mediterranean diet.
Foods You Should Avoid
Foods that must be eaten only in small amounts include:
- Foods rich in sugar - Limit foods that are high in refined sugar such as candies, ice cream, cake, and sweetened bread.
- Foods rich in trans fats - Trans fats contain triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins which are considered bad for your body, that’s why you should avoid foods high in trans fats like junk, processed, and fried foods.
- Processed foods - You should also limit your intake of processed foods like canned meat loaves, hot dogs, and sausages as these contain preservatives that may harm your health.
- Refined oils - Examples of these include palm, canola, soybean, and grapeseed oil.
In terms of beverages, experts recommend opting for water as your primary beverage in every meal. Fortunately, you can also opt for other drinks so long as it’s taken in moderation and is low in sugar.
- Red wine - Red wine is part of the Mediterranean diet and is more appropriate than heavy alcoholic drinks as these contain higher amounts of calories. However, it’s still necessary to limit red wine in your diet, preferably one glass per day.
- Coffee - Just like red wine, coffee is perfectly fine in a Mediterranean diet, just remember to control adding sugar and creamer.
- Tea - Herbal teas like sage, mint, or berries are perfect recipes for your Mediterranean beverage.
- Fruit drinks - You can also opt for natural fruit drinks like oranges, grapes, or berries if you want to add some flavor to plain water. However, just like coffee, you should be mindful of how much sugar you are putting in. For a remedy, you can use honey as a sweetener instead.
Mediterranean Meal Plan Example
To help you better understand what the Mediterranean diet consists of, below is an example of a Mediterranean meal plan that you can adopt.
For breakfast, you can choose meals that include yogurt, oatmeal, milk, eggs, berries, vegetables, and fruits. Refer to the sample breakfast meal plan below.
- Monday - Start the week with a Greek yogurt filled with blueberries and almonds
- Tuesday - Oatmeal with milk and your favorite fruits
- Wednesday - Omelete cooked with tomatoes and cabbage along with whole wheat bread
- Thursday - Greek yogurt with blueberries and whole wheat bread
- Friday - Oatmeal with milk blueberries, and strawberries
- Saturday - Eggs with vegetables and whole wheat bread
- Sunday - End the week with an omelet with mushrooms and olives
For lunch, choose a full meal that consists of rice, pasta, or salad along with lots of vegetables and fruits. Below is an example of a lunch meal plan.
- Monday - Start the week with the Mediterranean special, the Falafel bowl that contains a variety of vegetables including brown rice, spinach, hummus, cabbage, and baked falafel.
- Tuesday - Whole grain sandwich with tomatoes, chicken, and vegetables.
- Wednesday - Mediterranean pasta that contains veggies such as bell peppers, tomatoes, olives, and lemon zest.
- Thursday - Pesto and Mediterranean salad containing cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley
- Friday - Whole grain sandwich filled with cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce
- Saturday - Zucchini noodles with mozzarella, tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
- Sunday - End the week with a whole grain sandwich with chicken, vegetables, and salad
Preferrable foods for dinner include fish, poultry, pasta, vegetables, and fruits. Refer to the sample dinner meal plan below.
- Monday - Start the week with seafood and brown rice.
- Tuesday - Pizza topped with tomato sauce, cheese, bell peppers, olives, onions, and chicken
- Wednesday - Grilled chicken with salad and mashed potato
- Thursday - Broiled salmon with brown rice and salad
- Friday - Tuna salad with vegetable rice and mashed potato
- Saturday - Mediterranean lasagna with vegetable salad.
- Sunday - End the week with Chicken salad and brown rice
Note: To make your Mediterranean meal plan unique, you can just tweak the samples above or apply other favorite Mediterranean-style dishes on your list.
Other Valuable Tips To Keep In Mind
Before we jump to our conclusion, here is a list of additional tips that might be useful in your journey to a healthy lifestyle.
- Always prioritize vegetables and fruits.
- Never skip breakfast.
- Choose healthy fats.
- Make healthy desserts.
- Include seafood twice a week.
- Limit dairy products.
Supported by numerous studies, the Mediterranean diet offers a ton of benefits to your health, especially in the heart, bone, and heart. That’s why If you want to make a positive change in your lifestyle, it’s time to shift your diet to the Mediterranean way.