The Mediterranean Diet focuses on fresh, non-starchy veggies, fish, olive oil, and healthy fats. But more importantly, it emphasizes friends, family, and an easier pace of life that we all can afford to learn something from.
Living in the Upper Peninsula, where we get more snow than almost anything else, it can be hard to imagine life on the Mediterranean. Or perhaps it’s easier for us to daydream of balmy weather and an ocean breeze.
Either way, a diet based around this fertile geographical region has been gaining popularity and support from some leading research. What are the secrets of this diet which Ancient Greeks and Roman emperors alike have enjoyed? Why might it be good for our bodies?
Research has shown that those who put an emphasis on produce, fish, whole grains, and healthy fats can lose weight, and also have a decreased risk for heart disease, depression, and dementia. See this overview of 5 studies on the Mediterranean diet.
But we live in the UP. How do we eat like a Greek or an Italian? The answer is simple: shop the grocery market perimeter, eat seasonally, and focus on whole-grain breads.
Another crucial component of this diet is the behaviors that we have surrounding our food. In our busy lives, we are too often rushing to shove just about anything in our mouths so we can get on with our day. But by embracing the slower style of life of our Mediterranean friends, we can learn a lot about gratification and satisfaction with our food. And this carries on to other parts of our life.
When we eat slower, and we eat with people who make us smile, and take the time to appreciate every meal, we can become happier people. And we can watch our weight at the same time. Sounds like a pretty good deal, hey?
Mediterranean Diet Basics:
- Fresh, non-starchy produce is the centerpiece of this diet. Starchy vegetables are things like root veggies (potatoes, turnips) and should be avoided. Eat 5 to 10 servings a day of non-starchy vegetables. A half-cup cooked or 1 cup raw equals one serving.
- Healthy fats make up another important part of the Mediterranean diet. Think olives and olive oil. Olive oil delivers healthy monounsaturated fats and plant compounds called polyphenols.
- Seeds, nuts, and legumes are a great source of fiber and protein; nuts and seeds can also be a great source of more healthy fats and antioxidants. Hummus or lentil soup can be great sources!
- Fish is another signature element of the Mediterranean diet. For thousands of years humans have been getting their fat and protein from casting spears, nets, and lines into the water. But don’t worry, you can pick up fresh (or frozen) fish from the store. Skip out on the fish-sticks and fish fry, though. That doesn’t count.
- Dairy from cultured milk is another favorite from this part of the world. Think kefir, yogurt, fresh curd cheeses like ricotta. Have you ever had goat cheese? Why not try it?
- Whole grains are the way to go. Refined carbs can make your blood sugary go awry and lack nutrients. Aim for four small daily portions of whole-weat bread, or try a whole-grain pasta.
- Herbs and spices are full of healthy compounds with antioxidant and inflammation-fighting properties. And they taste delicious.
- Skip the soda, and go for green tea with mint, or espresso after your meal. You’ll reduce your sugar intake and probably feel a little fancier, too.
- Bring in your family and friends. A core part of life in the Mediterranean is their behavior and attitude toward creating meals together and enjoying food. Making a healthy meal with your family and sitting down to enjoy it can be rewarding and bring you all closer together. Skip the television for one night and sit down together at the table.
Always remember to talk with your primary care provider about nutrition and diet before starting a new plan. If you need to find a primary care provider, use our Find a Doctor tool here or call UP Health System – Marquette at any time at 844.411.8747 to find a doctor in Marquette, Harvey, Escanaba, Sault Ste. Marie, and across the Upper Peninsula.