What Is The Mediterranean Diet?

dakos, tomato, olives

In my last post, I talked about mediterranean diet being one of the best diets for heart health and controlling Type 2 Diabetes. But what exactly is mediterranean diet and how can you incorporate that in your day to day lifestyle.

Exactly what is the Mediterranean diet and can it help you lose weight? There actually is no ‘Mediterranean’ diet – it’s a compilation of the way that people in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea eat. Despite the differences in actual specifics, all of those studied based their diets on the same proportions of food groups and calories, and all included olive oil as their main source of fat. In fact, their diets contained far more than the recommendations made by the USDA – 40% rather than the 30% recommended for most healthy Americans. Still, the evidence was irrefutable. Therefore, it must have been the KIND of carbohydrates and fats that made the difference. 

The Mediterranean diet consists of the following guidelines: 

60% Of Total Carbohydrates From Grains, Fruits And Vegetables : Those include whole rice, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, polenta, pasta (made with whole grain, not refined white flour) 

Sparing Use of Red Meat, Fish And Poultry 

The typical adult Mediterranean consumes about 500 gms of red meat and poultry per week. Another 150-500gms of fish per week account for the bulk of their meat protein intake. Compare that to the typical American diet which might include a 500 gm steak for dinner one night, a 250 gm chicken breast the next, and on and on. 

Olive Oil : Olive oil is not a miracle oil. It is, however, mono-unsaturated – a good fat. Mono-unsaturated fats help lower cholesterol rather than raising it, and are healthy ways to add fats to your diet (and yes, even though we think of fat as a dirty word, your body does need some, or it can’t use many of the vitamins you feed it!) 

The other important component of the Mediterranean lifestyle was activity. The typical Mediterranean day includes walking rather than driving, physical activity in the fields or the home and recreation. Physical activity is vital in helping the body to lose weight, and to maintain your new weight once you reach it. 

The secret to losing weight with the Mediterranean diet is to base your meals on healthy carbohydrates – leafy green vegetables, brightly colored vegetables, whole grains and meals. Use meat sparingly – no more than 100 – 150 gm per day. Derive dietary fat from vegetable sources – or from fish oil. Exercise regularly to rev up your metabolism. The Mediterranean diet isn’t a weight loss regimen. It’s a new way of eating that will help you reach your goal weight and stay there when you get there.

Enjoy some recipe ideas from mediterranean region to incorporate in your daily routine:

  1. Shakshuka: It is an easy, healthy breakfast (or any time of day) recipe in Israel and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. It’s a simple combination of simmering tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices and gently poached eggs. 

    Dice an onion and red bell pepper and add that to a sauté pan with a little olive oil on medium heat. Stir the veggies for about 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent.

    Then add the garlic and spices and stir for another minute until they’re nice and fragrant. Pour in a 500 gm can of whole peeled tomatoes and use your spatula to break up the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Once this entire mixture is lightly simmering, you can crack your eggs on top.

    Use your spatula to make little holes for the eggs, then crack an egg into each hole. I used 6 eggs, though depending on the size of your pan you may use more or less. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for another 5-8 minutes or until the eggs are done to your liking.

    Before serving, season the eggs with salt and a generous amount of freshly chopped parsley and cilantro. Enjoy!

  2. Greek Stye Egg-Plant Recipe: This simple vegan eggplant stew with chickpeas and tomatoes  with extra virgin olive oil, oregano, paprika and pinch of cinnamon is easy to make and very delicious to eat. 
    Cut up the eggplant into cubes or large bite-size pieces. Sprinkle with some salt and leave in a large colander to let it sweat for 20 to 30 minutes or up to 1 hour, then rinse and pat dry.

    Warm up some extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick pan and add onions, peppers and carrots. Toss around for a few minutes, then stir in garlic, bay leaf and spices (paprika, coriander, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and black pepper). Cook just briefly till fragrant.

    Now, pour in the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas (and chickpea liquid or water), and eggplant. Bring this party to a boil for a good 10 minutes (this is the start of the braising process).
    Now to finish cooking, cover the eggplant stew and transfer it to a 400 degree heated oven. Let it cook to tender perfection for another 45 minutes or so. Be sure to check on the eggplant stew part-way through cooking, adding a little liquid if you feel it needs it.

    When ready, finish the dish with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and garnish of fresh parsley, if you like.


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