If you’ve ever seen an advertisement in a health magazine or on TV, you’re familiar with some of the popular “fad” diets. Like the Atkins diet or the HCG diet, these diets promise noticeable results in a short period of time. And while these trendy diets may cause some people to shed pounds quickly, they do not help sustain long-term nutrition, don’t encourage healthy aging, and can sometimes be downright dangerous. One diet is continuously awarded as the best diet (and has even won the “Best Overall Diet” Award by U.S. News & World Report for four consecutive years!): the Mediterranean diet.
So, what is the Mediterranean diet? Why is it regarded as “the best”?
HarborChase Senior Living offers independent living, assisted living, and memory care services at communities across the United States. We like to celebrate and encourage healthy aging at our communities through socialization, activity, and nutritious meals. We’re answering what the Mediterranean diet is, why it’s so good for you, and how to incorporate it into your life.
What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet originates from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, like Greece, Italy, and Spain. This diet became popular after researchers observed that people living in this area had lower risks of coronary heart disease and other chronic conditions. The Mediterranean diet has also been linked with increasing agility, brain function, mood, and healthy aging and longevity.
Unlike stifling elimination diets like the Atkins diet, or risky supplement diets like the HCG diet, the Mediterranean diet consists of a healthy balance of heart-healthy foods, like vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
The primary foundation of a Mediterranean diet is healthy fats and minimally-processed, plant-based foods. There is a high focus on vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains, with a smaller focus on meat (and an even smaller focus on red meat). The main components of a Mediterranean-style diet include:
- Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes
- Weekly consumption of seafood or poultry
- High focus on using olive oil as a fat source
- Low to moderate amounts of dairy and eggs products
- Limited consumption of red meats and sugars
Unlike other diets, the most important thing about the Mediterranean diet is that you focus on the overall quality of the foods you eat, rather than add or eliminate one single food.
More Than Just Food
In addition to the food, there are also several other aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle that are key elements in this diet. In the United States, we might be used to eating meals in a rush or in front of the TV, but the Mediterranean culture enjoys relaxed and leisurely meals with friends and family and a glass of red wine. Sitting down and enjoying a meal with others can sometimes be just as important as what you are eating.
Another critical element in the Mediterranean lifestyle and diet is physical activity. In countries surrounding the Mediterranean, exercise doesn’t necessarily mean carving out two hours a day to do heavy lifting at the gym. Walking is a central part of these cultures, and physical movement is naturally incorporated throughout the day.
Ways to Incorporate the Mediterranean Diet
One of the good things about the Mediterranean diet is that it doesn’t take extensive knowledge or planning to incorporate it into your life. These simple tips can help you get started:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables by having a salad for a starter, roasting them as a side, or snacking on them instead of chips
- Sautée food in olive oil instead of butter
- Choose whole grains over refined white bread and pasta
- Try to eat seafood twice a week by grilling or baking fatty fish
- Limit high-fat dairy by switching to low-fat Greek yogurt and hard cheeses
- Avoid red meats and sugars unless it’s a special occasion
- Sit down at a table instead of in front of the TV to eat meals
- Incorporate more physical activity naturally into your life (take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk or ride a bike to places close by, take a walk every evening)
The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and nutritious way to eat that’s associated with several benefits, including heart health, protection from disease and diabetes, and overall healthy aging. Unlike some diets, the Mediterranean diet allows for endless variety and flavor, and, best of all, you don’t need to travel beyond your kitchen to enjoy it!
HarborChase Senior Living is focused on celebrating healthy aging and senior living. Our communities offer world-class cuisine centered around health, nutrition, culture, and experience. For more information on the dining experience at HarborChase Senior Living communities, visit our website!