Eating the Mediterranean Way

A diet rich in plant-based foods can help prevent a variety of illnesses including heart disease and stroke.


The Mediterranean diet consists of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. Olive oil is the main source of added fat. Seafood, fish, dairy and poultry are included in moderation while red meat and sweets are only eaten occasionally. Red wine is also associated with the Mediterranean diet, but while alcohol in moderation can lower heart disease risk, it has other health risks. Here are 8 simple steps for eating the Mediterranean way:


Eat lots of fruits and vegetables


Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories and have no cholesterol. They are nutrient dense including potassium which helps maintain a healthy blood pressure, dietary fiber for reducing cholesterol, lowering risk of heart disease and providing a feeling of fullness with fewer calories, folate (folic acid) for red blood cell formation, vitamin A helps to protect the body against infection and vitamin C for wound healing and iron absorption.


Change the way you think about meat


Choose chicken, turkey, fish and seafood over pork, beef and other red meats. Leaner cuts and smaller portions mean less saturated fat intake.


Enjoy some dairy products


Be picky about dairy. Many can be high in fat. Only low to moderate amounts of dairy are recommended. Chose low-fat or nonfat options. These healthier choices still contain high protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and calcium that the body needs.


Eat fish/seafood twice a week


Fish and seafood is high in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for heart health. Tuna, herring, sardines, and salmon are great choices. In addition to healthy fats, fish and seafood also provide other important nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus.


Go vegetarian


Forget the meat and go vegetarian once a week. Choose nuts, beans, legumes, tofu, and seeds in place of meat for your main dish. These plant-based proteins also contain fiber and a variety of healthy vitamins and minerals.


Focus on healthy fats


Unsaturated fats can be broken down better by the body and are considered healthier fats. Two types of unsaturated fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. An example of a monounsaturated fat is olive oil and canola oil. An example of a polyunsaturated fat is sunflower, corn, soybean sesame, and cottonseed oils. The oils from seafood are also polyunsaturated fats.


Switch to whole grains


Wheat, barley, oats, corn, and brown rice are examples of whole grains. Whole grains provide a full feeling without added calories. They are also high in dietary fiber, vitamin B, and minerals like iron, magnesium and selenium.


Spice it up


Herbs, including basil and parsley, are from plants and plant parts. Spices often come from the seeds, berries, bark, or roots of plants. Certain herbs and spices curb inflammation in the body. Inflammation may give rise to heart disease and cancer. Using herbs and spices expands your palette without extra calories and can decrease the amount of salt, fat, and sugar you use without sacrificing flavor.


As you can see a diet rich in plant-based foods can provide a multitude of health benefits. Explore new recipes with your family and enjoy a lifetime of improved health.


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Mary Fisher, RDN is a Clinical Dietitian with McLaren Northern Michigan