When looking for a meal plan to follow or base your diet around, you have lots of choices. The Mediterranean Diet has been around for many years and is followed by many people. It’s known to be heart-healthy and models the diets of those by the Mediterranean Sea such as France, Italy, Greece and Spain. It’s also noted that individuals who live in this region have greater longevity. What do you think? Is it something you should consider?
What to Eat in the Mediterranean Diet
There are no hard fast rules when following this plan. The Mediterranean Diet is plant-based and filled with vegetables, beans, whole grains and heart-heathy fats. Filling your plate with plant-based foods leaves less room for other choices such as animal protein. Chicken and fish are eaten in small amounts. Eating fatty fish is encouraged. Sources include salmon, herring and tuna, which are a good source of polyunsaturated fats and Omega 3s.
Heart-healthy fats are also encouraged in the Mediterranean Diet. Instead of butter and saturated fats, try olive oil and nuts. Both provide monounsaturated fats. Wine is associated with this diet as well. It’s often added in moderation and has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease.
In addition to what you are eating, pay attention to what you aren’t eating. When your plate is filled with plant-based foods, there is limited room for other food choices. Processed foods, animal products and saturated fats are not in this plan. Limiting these foods can be another reason many people notice health improvements with the Mediterranean Diet.
What are the Benefits?
There are many benefits associated with this plan, including:
- Improved heart health
- Reduced LDL (“bad” cholesterol)
- Lower blood glucose levels, reducing the risk for diabetes
- Reduced inflammation
Give This Diet a Try:
If the Mediterranean Diet interests you, the best thing to do is give it a try! Start with the recipe below and go from there.
Greek Orzo Salad:
- 8 oz. orzo pasta (1 1/4 cup dry)
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 lemon, juice and zest (about 2 Tbsp. juice)
- 1/4 cup minced shallots or red onion
- 1/2 English cucumber (2 cups diced, or substitute a peeled standard cucumber)
- 2 roasted red peppers from a jar or 1/2 fresh red bell pepper (1/2 cup diced)
- 1/3 cup chopped dill, plus more for garnish
- 1/3 cup chopped mint
- 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 cup feta cheese
- 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, halved
- Black pepper
- Prepare the orzo according to package instructions. Taste the orzo a few minutes before completion to ensure it’s “al dente” (chewy, but with a little firmness in the center). When done, drain it and rinse under cold water until it comes to room temperature.
- Place the chickpeas in a bowl with the lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt.
- Mince the red onion, then place it in a bowl with water (this helps remove the sharp onion taste). Dice the cucumber and the roasted red pepper. Chop the herbs.
- Stir together the orzo, chickpeas and bowl of lemon juice, red onion, cucumber, red pepper, dill, mint, white wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, oregano, feta crumbles, black olives and several grinds of pepper. Taste. If necessary, season with more kosher salt.