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It’s not just about eating more fish and using olive oil. To get the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet, you need to embrace the lifestyle.
Many researchers have found that those living in the Mediterranean have a lower risk of certain types of disease. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that incorporating more olive oil and nuts may help reduce the risk of heart disease by about 30% in folks who are at high risk. Since the release of this study in April 2013 the popularity of the Mediterranean diet has skyrocketed—and with good reason. On top of incorporating many good-for-you foods, the cuisine is pretty darn tasty.
Countries in the Mediterranean like Spain, Italy and Greece are surrounded by water, making fish widely available and one of the main sources of protein. Mediterranean dishes incorporate fresh herbs and spices, olive oil, nuts, and fresh fruits and vegetables, which are frequently grown locally (within the country). A glass of wine is often enjoyed with meals.
Folks living in the Mediterranean tend to drink soda sparingly and eat little red meat, processed food, commercial baked goods, sweets and pastries.
To adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle, add these essentials to your shopping list:
- Fresh fish: choose local fish from your area
- Nuts and beans: choose unsalted nuts and either dried beans or those labeled low-sodium
- Fresh herbs: Parsley, mint, or basil are traditional Mediterranean flavors
- Whole grains: choose from a variety like brown rice, whole-wheat couscous, barley and quinoa
- Seasonal veggies: Visit your local farmers’ market and sign up for your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to find locally grown, seasonal vegetables
Check out these 21 Mediterranean Diet-Inspired Recipes, like the Lemon Salmon With Lima Beans, pictured above.
The Mind and Body
The Mediterranean lifestyle is not just about food, but also about incorporating exercise and relaxing. An early morning run on the beach or a brisk walk after dinner is common practice. My in-laws live in Israel and oftentimes after dinner they’ll go on a romantic evening stroll along the boardwalk in Tel Aviv.
Meals are not rushed in front of the computer and shoved down as quickly as possible (sound familiar?). It’s a way to relax with family and friend while enjoying the flavors and aromas of local fare. Lunch can be a 1 ½ to 2-hour event and in some areas stores are even closed during this time giving employees and owners time to enjoy lunch and even get in a nap before returning for their afternoon shift. Now that’s the life!
You may not have a few hours to spare in the middle of your hectic work day, but there are ways to incorporate the Mediterranean lifestyle into your everyday life:
- Eat lunch outdoors at a nearby park.
- Use part of your lunch hour to take a 15 minute stroll with a friend.
- Step away from the electronics (TV, smart phone, computer) during meals.
- Take a stroll with your kids or friends after dinner.
TELL US: How do you incorporate the Mediterranean lifestyle into your daily routine?
Now is the time many folks start breaking their New Year’s resolutions. At the gym, lines for the elliptical machine are slowly dwindling, while at home, healthy eating habits are beginning to slide. If you’re starting to fall off the wagon, instead of going back to your old habits for the remaining 11 months of the year, brush yourself off and get back on.