Is the Mediterranean Diet Right for You?

Raw uncooked seabass fish with vegetables, grains, herbs and spices on chopping board over rustic wooden background

Is the Mediterranean Diet Right for You?

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy lifestyle and eating plan that concentrates on the foods and recipes that are sourced from the Mediterranean culture. This diet is gaining popularity because it is linked to increased longevity and heart health. We outline what is and isn’t allowed on the diet and its benefits and potential drawbacks. So, is the Mediterranean diet right for you?

What Can You Eat on the Mediterranean Diet?

Most diets are restrictive; however, the Mediterranean diet is a favorite among health practitioners because of the freedom that it offers.

Fruits and vegetables make up a major portion of the Mediterranean diet.

Whole grains with low levels of unhealthy fats are permitted. In fact, pasta and bread made from whole grains can be a major part of this diet. Bread is usually dipped in extra-virgin olive oil for flavor.

Nuts are a prime source of fatty acids for people on this diet. Although high in fat, nuts are okay on the Mediterranean diet because the fat in nuts is naturally occurring and unsaturated. High-sugar candied nuts and salted nuts should be avoided.

Fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines are also a staple in this diet. They are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which do wonders for brain and heart health.

Chicken, eggs, and dairy should be consumed in moderation.

Herbs and spices are encouraged to keep food exciting and enjoyable. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes a variety of flavors.

A glass of red wine can be a great way to wash it all down. Excessive consumption of alcohol is never advised, but those on the Mediterranean diet can enjoy the health benefits of red wine in moderation. In this case, moderation means no more than 5 ounces a day for women and no more than 10 ounces for men.

Wine is optional, of course, and if you have a personal or familial history of alcohol abuse, you can skip it altogether.

How Can You Make the Switch?

Changing your eating habits is not easy, but you owe it to yourself to make conscious decisions about what you eat. Fortunately, the Mediterranean diet is known to be one of the easiest to begin and maintain.

Try these steps to ease the transition to the Mediterranean diet:

1.  Eat your fruits and vegetables. You have virtually limitless options, so fill your plate with a variety of flavors and textures.

2.  Switch to whole-grain rice, bread, and pasta products.

3.  Try snacking on nuts to stave off any hunger pangs. They are a good source of protein and unsaturated fat, so they’ll fill you up and are a convenient snack option. You can even use natural peanut butter as a spread instead of the hydrogenated kind.

4.  Substitute canola oil and olive oil for butter and margarine while cooking.

5.  Reduce or eliminate red meat. This may be the most challenging part of the diet for some. You can make the switch gradually, slowly switching out red meat for heart-healthy options like fish and chicken. If you absolutely must have some red meat, try to keep the portions small.

What Are the Benefits of Sticking to the Mediterranean Diet?

According to research, the biggest advantage of sticking to the Mediterranean diet is a reduced risk of heart disease. This is because the Mediterranean diet promotes consumption of good cholesterol rather than bad.

In addition to heart health, the diet has other ways of increasing your life expectancy. For example, it has been shown to reduce the chances of getting Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and women who had extra servings of olive oil were found to be less likely to contract breast cancer.

What Are the Drawbacks of the Mediterranean Diet?

As with any diet, the main disadvantage of sticking to this diet is the restrictions. You will have to avoid or limit eating certain foods, such as red meat, refined grains, highly processed foods, and sugary treats. And that takes a lot of discipline!

Cost can also be an issue. Olive oil, nuts, and the large quantities of fruits and vegetables you’ll need to eat on this diet will likely add to your weekly shopping bill. But if you can afford it in the short run, it will save you on healthcare costs in the long run.

Before starting any diet, you should consult your doctor. Dr. Sue Reddy specializes in the treatment of infectious disease among many other specialties. She understands what is required to live a healthy, active life. Please feel free to take a look around her website, and if you feel she provides services you may be interested in, give Dr. Reddy a call. Her staff would be more than happy to set up an appointment and answer any questions you may have.