The Mediterranean diet has quickly become not only a popular weight loss plan, but also a means to improve overall health. It’s a fact that in Mediterranean countries, populations have a significantly lower risk of heart disease thanks to the diet. Furthermore, Mediterranean foods and dishes have been linked to healthier weight, reduced risk of diabetes, and a host of other health benefits. While switching over to a complete Mediterranean diet may not work for everyone, adding just a few items to your grocery list can have a positive impact.
1. The Wonders of Olive Oil
Olive oil is likely the most common grocery item to come from the Mediterranean region, and chances are, you already have some in your pantry. The oil’s popularity is grounded not only in its deliciousness and versatility, but also because olive oil offers plenty of health benefits. It can be used to cook, dress a salad, as a component in marinades, and other uses that make it easy to incorporate into any diet plan.
Olive oil is a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats which reduce inflammation in the body and are potentially linked to reduced incidents of cancer. Along with that, it is a potent source of Vitamins K and E, both of which are needed for the body’s immune system and ability to recover from injury. Lastly, olive oil is packed with antioxidants which promote the immune system, skin health, and other benefits that encourage optimal health.
2. Sumptuous Seafood
Mediterranean dishes rarely incorporate red meat. Thanks to its coastal environment, protein is typically derived from seafood. Herring, tuna, salmon, black cod, mussels, and sardines are just a few of the delicious seafood options that adorn plates in the Mediterranean. Whether paired with pasta, a side dish of fresh vegetables or added to a salad, seafood is incredibly versatile.
Adding Mediterranean fish to your diet grants access to nutrients not commonly found in other foods. The most vital and important of these is fish oil. Commonly supplemented for its high Omega-3 content, the natural fish oil found in seafood fights inflammation and protects the body from heart disease, a condition rarely found in those who eat a Mediterranean-inspired diet.
3. Natural Desserts
Rather than relying on cakes, ice cream, and other sugar-rich and caloric-dense desserts, Mediterranean cuisine makes use of healthy fruits. Panna cotta is a sweet, thick cream garnished with a healthy dose of blueberries and raspberries. These berries are also mixed with Greek yogurt and local honey to make a sweet but well-rounded and healthy dessert.
Both raspberries and blueberries hold plenty of nutrients despite their small size. Blueberries are loaded with vitamin C, fiber, potassium, phytonutrients, and vitamin B6, all nutrients that promote cardiovascular health. Raspberries offer many of the same benefits as red wine since they are also full of antioxidants. Since these desserts are low in processed sugars they are excellent for those worried about developing diabetes.
4. Whole Grains for Whole Body Health
While most people immediately think of pasta and bread when imagining Mediterranean and specifically Italian foods, they actually only make up a small part of the region’s cuisine. That said, both pasta and bread are fine additions to your diet, provided you choose the right kind. The key is to select pasta and bread that use whole grains, rather than starchy, white varieties processed and packed with sugar. Likewise, rather than buttering your bread, follow the traditional Mediterranean habit of enjoying it with some olive oil and fresh garlic.
Whole grains are the easiest way to make sure your body gets the ideal amount of dietary fiber each day. Dietary fiber keeps the digestive tract running smoothly and helps you feel fuller, thus curbing the desire to snack. Unlike processed wheat, whole grain bread and pasta has extra copper, magnesium, iron, zinc, and other nutrients that otherwise get stripped when the grain is breached and processed.
Making It Work
Adopting Mediterranean foods for every meal might work for some, but adding even a few foods and meals each week can offer plenty of health benefits. Replace butter and salad dressings with a little olive oil for a delicious topping without all the sodium and sugar. Incorporate plenty of whole grains and swap out red meat for seafood once or twice a week. There are restaurants around as well if you’re looking for Mediterranean cuisine in Morristown. Small changes like this will dramatically improve your cardiovascular system, help you to control your weight, and improve your overall health and sense of well-being.