I was recently in Italy and loved the food there. I had pizza, pasta, tiramisu and gelato. None of this seems very healthy to me, so what exactly is this Mediterranean diet that so many people say is super healthy?
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in the Mediterranean countries.
These countries include France, Spain, Greece and Italy.
The people living in this area have been found to have a low risk of many chronic diseases, especially heart disease.
They are also relatively healthy.
It’s a diet that encourages you to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy fats.
Eating processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains is discouraged.
Mediterranean people also engage in plenty of physical activity, like to share their meals, and eat slowly so they don’t overeat.
You also have a lot less stress.
All of these factors contribute to their overall health.
Tiramisu and Gelato came later, so many wouldn’t necessarily consider these traditional fare!
Wait, so what exactly should I be eating for this Mediterranean diet?
Because there are so many cuisines in the countries around the Mediterranean, there are many things that you can include in such a diet.
- Vegetables – Eat lots of tomatoes and other vegetables like broccoli, kale, onions and sweet potatoes.
- Fruit – includes all types of fruit such as oranges, bananas, grapes, melons, and peaches, among others.
- nuts, seeds and nut butters
- Legumes – these include beans, peanuts, legumes, lentils, peas and chickpeas.
- Whole grains – eat brown rice, not white rice; Oats, corn, whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pasta are also good.
- Seafood – The Mediterranean is rich in seafood such as salmon, mussels, mussels, sardines, tuna and prawns.
- Poultry – this includes both chicken and eggs.
- Dairy products – Milk, cheese and yogurt are common in all types of Mediterranean foods.
To flavor your dishes, you can add herbs and spices such as garlic, basil, rosemary, sage, pepper and cinnamon.
Mediterranean foods are also typically cooked in healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil.
All of this is natural and healthy.
Avoid refined carbohydrates like candy and white bread.
Butter can also make you fat if eaten in excess.
Note that Mediterranean people dip their bread in olive oil instead of smothering it in butter.
OK, it sounds like a diet I can stick to because there are many options. What Are the Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
According to studies, a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease by 28% to 30%.
A 2013 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the United States found that a Mediterranean diet, along with regular exercise, a healthy weight and not smoking, protected people from early heart disease by slowing the buildup of heart disease plaque in their arterial walls.
This reduced the risk of early death by 80%.
A Mediterranean diet can lower your blood cholesterol levels, improve your body’s ability to absorb blood sugar, and slow down inflammation.
But I don’t live near the Mediterranean Sea. How Do I Maintain This Mediterranean Diet While Living in Malaysia?
You don’t always have to eat at an expensive Italian restaurant to eat a Mediterranean diet in Malaysia.
Malaysian food, as good as it tastes, isn’t always the healthiest option.
You can switch your current diet to a Mediterranean one by simply changing a few options at a time.
Johns Hopkins recommends replacing an unhealthy item with a healthy item for three weeks.
Then replace two more unhealthy items with healthy ones and stick with the changes for another three weeks.
The idea is to take it slow and steady, rather than making a drastic switch that you can’t stick to.
For example, if you currently eat white bread and butter for breakfast and drink whole milk, you can simply switch to oatmeal and fresh fruit.
Or you can have an omelette with tomatoes, mushrooms and onions.
Instead of whole milk, you can switch to non-fat milk.
For lunch, instead of eating curry mee or laksa, try a salad.
And instead of using a creamy sauce for your salad dressing, try just drizzled with olive oil.
Plain olive oil on salad or bread is extremely tasty.
For dinner, try eating a fruit after the main meal instead of a sugary dessert.
With a Mediterranean diet, you don’t have to count calories.
Is pizza then considered healthy? And don’t many Mediterranean people drink a lot of wine?
Pizza isn’t healthy if you eat too much of it!
But also note that the original pizza — known as pizza margherita — hails from Naples, and its crust is actually very thin, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and covered only with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil.
It wasn’t until people started adding all sorts of other ingredients like processed meat (hot peppers) that pizza became less healthy.
Wine is also healthy if drunk in moderation (about one glass a day).
dr YLM has a degree in medicine and has been writing on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment for many years. For more information email [email protected] The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and should not be construed as personal medical advice. Neither The star nor does the author make any warranty as to the accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other representations with respect to such information. The star and the author disclaims all responsibility for any loss, damage to property or personal injury arising directly or indirectly from reliance on any such information.