One of the only sensible and health-giving diets that came to fashion some years ago, the Mediterranean Diet has long been established as the healthiest way to eat, feeding both your physical and mental welfare. It is a great blueprint for how to feed your body and a true meaning of a well-balanced diet. Many in depth surveys have shown that if you follow this way of life, you will live longer and be healthier particularly if you adopt this way in adulthood. It’s never too late. Recent surveys from the University of Southampton cite that most benefit comes from age 30 years onwards and will broadly add another 8-10% to your longevity.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Considered to be the complete opposite of foods eaten in the Western world, in the main consisting of beans, cereal grains (wholegrains), fish, fruits, nuts, olive oil and vegetables. It is fondly called the ‘sunshine diet’ due to the array of colours that the plate provides, making it attractive to the eye, as well as the stomach.
In contrast, the Western Diet is more or less everything you are told not to consume – red meats, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates such as white bread. Most processed foods do not have health-giving properties. Conformists to the western diet tend not to have many plant-based foods, thereby losing out on vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
In terms of mental welfare, more studies have demonstrated that you lower the risk of cognitive decline if you follow this diet. Mental welfare has been at the forefront of news, particularly in recent years, with more evidence that food has a direct effect on the mind, as well as the body.
How to get started
It is not easy – if you love your burgers and chips or just crave sweets, cakes, biscuits and lots of bread, there is no doubt it will be hard to make the necessary changes. It’s as much about cutting out as it is making healthy choices.
You can start by moderating your diet and not diving straight into the new way, it could be too much of a shock and transformation all in one go and more than likely send you straight back to ground zero! There are some wise tips though:
● Eliminate as many processed foods, change the type of fat (unsaturated is best) that you eat, (i.e., use olive oil as opposed to others).
● Reduce your meat intake, particularly fatty meat. If you love the texture of meat, have chicken or turkey instead, without the skin.
● Include 2 portions of fish (not breaded) with at least one being the oily variety (sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon etc).
● Increase your intake of plant-based protein in place of meat (pulses, nuts, legumes).
● Don’t forget your ‘5-a-day’ and pick colourful choices. You can include canned and frozen, as long as they are all with natural sugars.
● Add a handful of nuts here and there, they are packed with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Avoid salted nuts.
● Avoid salt where possible, even for seasoning. Substitute with fresh herbs, spices and citrus such as lemon or lime.
● Starchy carbs should be consumed 2 or 3 times a day – available in whole grains such as bread, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, barley or oatmeal.
● Find out if you are intolerant to a specific food by taking a food intolerance test.
Take it easy, don’t expect too much of yourself in the early stages, changing the habit of a lifetime can be tricky. Have the odd treat if you feel you can handle it! According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health and wellness is defined as being “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Keep that thought and turn your health around.