If you want to live longer, whittle your waistline, keep your brain sharp, slash your risk for chronic diseases, try eating the delicious cuisine of the Mediterranean.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is considered a gold standard for promoting a longer, healthier life. In fact, the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a Mediterranean-style diet as a balanced approach to eating that promotes health and prevents disease.
You’ve likely heard of the Mediterranean diet, but what exactly is it?
It’s pattern of eating that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, and grains (including pasta), with moderate consumption of fish, poultry, dairy and eggs, and generally low consumption of red meat and sweets.
Here are 5 easy ways to make your diet more Mediterranean:
Pump Up the Produce
Start by eating five or more servings per day of produce. That may seem like a lot, but you can easily fit in a fruit or veggie at every meal and snack. For instance, at breakfast, try this delectable Berry Parfait. For an afternoon snack, opt for an apple or banana and a handful of nuts. Instead of cookies or cake for dessert, enjoy a tasty Apple Pear Crisp.
Enjoy Bread … and Pasta!
The Mediterranean-style of eating is not low in carbs—and the people of the Mediterranean have some of the lowest rates of obesity in the world! This is because those in the region enjoy quality carbohydrate choices, including complex carbohydrates like bread and pasta as well as whole grains like oats and couscous. In fact, bread is a staple of the region, and traditional semolina pasta is the primary source of carbs in Italy, where obesity rates are among the lowest in Europe. In our home we always have a meatless Monday pasta dish, like this easy and satisfying Angel Hair with Tomato Basil Sauce.
Consider What You Drink
The Mediterranean diet includes moderate amounts of red wine – which is equal to about one glass per day for women and two for men. Studies have shown that drinking red wine in moderation can offer heart health benefits. If you don’t drink alcohol, there’s good news. The dark purple Concord grape used in 100% grape juice provides beneficial plant nutrients called polyphenols. In fact, 100% grape juice delivers many of the same polyphenols and heart-health benefits as red wine. One great way to enjoy 100% grape juice is in this delicious and nutritious Purple Sunshine Smoothie.
Fish and seafood are a mainstay of Mediterranean eating and they provide plenty of heart-and brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. In the Mediterranean region, people generally eat fish and seafood at least three times a week, while Americans eat a fish meal about once a week. Swap out beef or other red meat for fish or seafood at least twice a week. If fresh fish is too pricy for multiple weekly meals, canned salmon, tuna, or frozen shrimp offer healthy budget friendly alternatives.
Include Healthy Fats
While the Mediterranean diet is not low in fat, it is low in unhealthy saturated fats like those present in whole-fat dairy and red meats. In fact, a recent study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that replacing just 5 percent of calories from saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 25 percent. (That same replacement with monounsaturated fat provided a reduction of risk by some 15 percent.) Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats include sunflower oil, walnuts, and fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and trout. Monounsaturated fats are common in olive oil and canola oil.