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What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is a nutritional model that aims primarily to lower the risk of various diseases and secondarily to reduce weight. As a pattern of food consumption it has five major characteristics:
- It consists mainly of fruits and vegetables, breads and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Olive oil is the principal or only source of fat in the diet.
- It recommends moderate amounts of dairy products, fish and poultry; there is little use of red meat.
- Eggs are taken not more than four times weekly.
- Wine is consumed in moderate amounts—two glasses per day for men, one glass for women.
As a means of preventive health care, the Mediterranean diet is believed to reduce the risk for conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome, asthma and allergies.
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Weight Loss and The Mediterranean Diet
This dietary pattern can be an enjoyable and healthy way to lose weight gradually (one to two pounds a week). Since the Mediterranean coastal region stretches across Europe from Spain to the Middle East, there is not one specific diet plan. Mediterranean diets may be varied according to cultures and versions of the diet. But based on the basic characteristics mentioned, here are some tips on the Mediterranean diet and weight loss:
- For breads and cereals, select whole grain foods. High fiber foods promote satisfaction and help reduce weight. Substitute whole wheat for white bread, brown rice for white rice and whole-wheat flour for white flour.
- For protein sources, take nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy and poultry. Lean meat may be taken occasionally at 4 ounces. Aside from proteins these foods contain healthy monounsaturated fats.
- When preparing chicken, take the skin off and use white meat to lower fat intake. Take less than 4 ounces daily.
- Fish and seafood may be taken at least two times per week.
- Have two cups of seasonal vegetables and two and a half cups of whole fruit daily.
- Use only low fat dairy products like cheese and yogurt. Take no more than four eggs in a week.
- Avoid saturated fats and trans fats; use olive oil instead of butter and margarine. Olive oil is high in calories, so it must be consumed in moderation to reduce calorie intake.
- Watch portions and serving sizes especially for higher-calorie foods like nuts and olive oil. Take at least six glasses of water daily.
- Take wine in moderation: a 5 ounce glass of wine for ladies and 10 ounces for men daily.
- Keep exercising as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Federal guidelines call for physical activity at least 30 minutes five times a week (or daily), including resistance training twice a week.
Weight loss diets are sometimes difficult to enjoy and maintain. Some fad diets may not even be safe. Mediterranean diets are a healthy and delicious way to promote gradual but sustained weight loss as long as calories and portions are controlled. Aside from these tips, it is recommended that meals be enjoyed with others in a relaxed atmosphere following a Mediterranean lifestyle, that is, one which includes leisurely dining and regular physical activity.
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Diet.com, “Mediterranean Diet”, https://www.diet.com/store/facts/mediterranean-diet
WebMD, “The Mediterranean Diet”, http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the_mediterranean-diet
- Image: Shrimp Pasta by Frank Wouters