Eat Your Way to a Longer Life - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on March 13, 2015

Eat Your Way to a Longer Life

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish, beans, nuts and whole grains.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating
a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables,
olive oil, fish, beans, nuts and whole grains. 

It seems like every day, there’s another fad diet or trendy superfood with incredible health claims. Most of these “miracle diets” really aren’t all that miraculous, and sometimes they aren’t even healthy. At first, you might have lumped the Mediterranean diet in these groups. However, more studies are proving that the Mediterranean diet might be the real deal.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on the eating habits of the people of Crete, much of Greece, and southern Italy. That means that it includes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish, beans, nuts and whole grains. While there is a limit on dairy and red meat, you can indulge in a glass of wine occasionally with this eating plan.

One of the things that make nutritionists such big fans of the Mediterranean diet is that it’s low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat (the healthy kind) and dietary fiber.

Yes, that all sounds healthy. But how can it improve not just your waist line, but your overall wellbeing?

Following a Mediterranean-style diet may help lower your risk for certain diseases, improve your mood, and boost your energy level while keeping your heart and brain healthy. It’s been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular problems, heart disease, heart attack and stroke. It may also be good for your brain. Studies have associated this diet with reduced damage of small blood vessels in the brain and preventing Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia, depression and Parkinson’s disease.

This diet may also help lower “bad” cholesterol, and prevent type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Wait, it gets better – researchers have also suggested that the Mediterranean diet could help slow down the aging process.

And, by the way, it’s delicious.

Do all of these benefits have you chomping at the bit to start following this eating plan?

Here’s how you can get started.

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal. They should make up a majority of each meal and can be used as snacks in between meals. Fresh is best.
  • Switch to whole-grain bread and cereals, and begin to eat more whole-grain rice and pasta.
  • Get nutty. You can get a healthy dose of fiber, protein and healthy fats from nuts and seeds. Like fruit and veggies, these are a great option for a snack. When it comes to peanut butter, opt for the natural variety rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added.
  • Skip the butter. Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or margarine on vegetables, while cooking pasta, and on whole-grain breads.
  • Go fish! Aim to eat fish at least two times a week. Healthy options to pick up at the store include fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring. Opt for grilling, baking or broiling your fish instead of breaded and fried fish.
  • Limit red meat to no more than a few times a month. When you do have red meat, make sure it’s a lean cut and the portion is about the size of a deck of cards. Avoid high-fat, processed meats like sausage, bacon and cold cuts.
  • Get spicy. Instead of drowning your recipes and dishes with salt and fat, try using different herbs and spices for flavor.
  • Pick low-fat dairy and limit the higher fat dairy, such as whole or 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream. Instead, switch over to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheeses.

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