The Mediterranean Diet: Plant-Based for Health

The Mediterranean diet has been endorsed by health experts since the 1960s and is based on the traditional way of eating found in Greece, Italy and other countries located around the sea found to have much lower rates of chronic illness. 

Following this diet means eating plenty of vegetables and fruit, nuts, whole grains, legumes, olive oil and smallish amounts of lean meats like chicken and fish; moderate red wine consumption is acceptable. There are fewer carbohydrates and meats than found in the typical U.S. diet, but plenty of fiber and monounsaturated (“good”) fats. 

Following the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and muscular weakness with aging, as well as extending overall lifespan. 

It doesn’t involve much pasta and bread; refined flour and highly processed foods are out, for the most part. Here are some ways to begin incorporating healthy foods and fats into your way of eating: 

Eat veggies, all the time — Be creative in how you fit them into every meal and snack, whether it’s in an omelet, muffin, smoothie, salad or main dish. 

EVOO on everything — Don’t go overboard, but lightly drizzle extra virgin olive oil on salad, fish, chicken and veggies. Use it instead of butter in mashed potatoes and other dishes where you might not otherwise think of it. 

Something fishy — If you’ve never been a fish fan, start out with mild white fish such as cod or mahi mahi, cook salmon in foil with orange slices and white onion, or simply make sure you get enough lean protein from other sources including poultry and legumes. 

Get comfortable with whole grains — This means working with grain that’s more or less in its original form such as oatmeal, quinoa, barley, even popcorn (air-popped, olive oil in lieu of butter). 

Red wine with caution — Women are advised by the New England Journal of Medicine’s version of this diet to stick to a 3-ounce serving per day, and men to 5 ounces. Don’t start drinking if you can’t or don’t want to.