Imagine being able to eat generous serves of food at every meal, wash it all down with a glass of red wine and still live a healthy life, free of heart disease and cancer. Sound too good to be true? Let’s find out!
Welcome to the Mediterranean
Heart disease is one of the leading killers in the USA & Australia. But fly across the ocean to Greece, France or Italy and you will find a country where people live in good health even though their diet rakes up almost 40% of its calories from fat!
We should all know by now there are different kinds of fats and some are better for us than others. The problem with most Western countries is a large proportion of the foods we eat are high in saturated fats (found mostly in animal foods). Too much saturated fat raises bad cholesterol levels which leads to clogged arteries and leaves us in high risk of suffering from a stroke or heart attack.
So how can Mediterranean people eat the same amount of fat, if not more, and have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world? The answer is their main fat source comes from monosaturated fats found in one of the most abundant food sources eaten in the Mediterranean; Olive Oil. Eating olive oil can actually reduce your levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol sticking to artery walls.
The Mediterranean Diet is also rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits, fresh whole-grain breads, dates and nuts and physical activity is a significant part of the daily routine. A healthy benefit of all these foods is they are significantly high in fibre which keeps your weight down by filling you up without a lot of fat and calories. A high fibre diet also helps block the absorption of certain fats and cholesterol which means that some of these harmful substances are flushed away before making it into the blood stream. Now before you start consuming olive oil by the bucket load, keep this in mind, if you adapt the COMPLETE Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, not just the parts you like the sound of most, you stand a much better chance of losing weight and maintaining good health.
Drink to Good Health
Red wine contains compounds called phenols that help prevent LDL cholesterol from sticking to artery walls and also keeps platelets in blood from sticking together and causing clots. This doesn’t give you permission to replace your water intake with red wine! What it does allow is a guilt free drink with your main meal every night and the Mediterranean’s do just that!
Another point worth mentioning is another favourite food of the western world which is also very popular in the Mediterranean; Cheese. So how can a diet which includes cheese (a food generally high in saturated fat) almost every day be so healthy?
There are a few explanations…
The cheeses most popular in the Mediterranean are cheeses naturally low in fat like Feta & Parmesan.
Cheese is only used in small amounts, only about an ounce per day.
Cheese high in fat like Cheddar and Swiss are almost never used in the Mediterranean.
So the message is simple really. For optimal health, choose a plant-based diet, which is naturally high in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. Remember to be active EVERY day and reap the benefits of the Mediterranean way of life!