What is the Mediterranean diet?
We’ve heard a lot about how healthy a Mediterranean diet is and how it’s linked to a longer life — from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to reducing risk for diabetes, cancer and even dementia.
But what really is the Mediterranean diet?
Dr. Rupika Uberoi-Nangia, and internal medicine physician at Aurora Health Center in Mequon, Wis., gives a quick breakdown of what the power-packed diet emphasizes:
- Increased consumption of olive oil instead of butter
- Emphasis on plant-based foods:
- Legumes and nuts
- Fruits and vegetables
- Unrefined cereals
- Moderate consumption of dairy (mostly cheese and yogurt)
- Fish consumption at least twice a week
- Especially fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, lake trout, herring and sardines
- Limited consumption of non-fish meat products
- Red wine in moderation (optional)
Contrary to many other popular diets, the Mediterranean diet is not about limiting fat. Instead, it focuses on good fats. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts, canola oil and fatty fish are known to be heart-healthy and can help lower triglycerides and blood pressure.
The diet limits red meat, sugary items and processed foods. There’s naturally less room for these types of foods when your plate is loaded with colorful fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Uberoi-Nangia also says social interaction is a cornerstone of being healthy, and food is very much celebrated in the Mediterranean. And as with any lifestyle, being active is a must.
So, the next time you’re at the grocery store, think about spending extra time in the fresh produce aisles and grabbing some olive oil; the red wine is optional. Then celebrate!
About the Author
Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.