Why I Love Mediterranean Eating

Gloria Tsang, RD
Gloria is an accomplished nutrition expert, committed to helping people lead healthier lifestyles through nutrition education and awareness. Gloria does not preach the ABCs of Nutrition, because she believes that in order for nutrition to have a positive impact on people, it needs to be fun and practical. She debunks diet myths and makes sense of breaking nutrition news for others to better understand the essence of healthy eating. You can learn more about Gloria and her commitment to nutrition by visiting her website — and be sure to follow her on Twitter @HealthCastleGlo.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Mediterranean Diet.  I love it, because of I kinda eat like it.  I hate it, because I hate the name.  I don’t think it’s a “diet”, period. If you’ve been to our nutrition network HealthCastle.com, you will know why we’re opposed to dieting.

It is not surprising to learn that people following the Mediterranean way of eating have a lower incidence of heart disease and cancer. The Mediterranean region is famous for its frequent use of olive oil.  Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fat, which can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. It is also a source of antioxidants including vitamin E.

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However, olive oil is not the only superstar in the Mediterranean cuisine.  Mediterranean meals are filled with colorful plant-based foods! Plant-based foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils, and nut & seeds!  All these foods are rich in beneficial fiber and antioxidants, which are protective against both heart disease and cancer.

As a West-Coast girl, I love my seafood! In the Mediterranean region, fish is eaten more often than red meat.  In my book Go UnDiet, I’ve done an analysis on many protein foods.  Ounce for ounce, fish and seafoods consistently have lower calories than meat and poultry. In addition, the heart-smart omega-3 fatty acids are only present in significant quantities in marine foods.

In fact, fish is not the only protein food popular in the Mediterranean region.  Nuts, seeds, and pulses are all staples in the Mediterranean cuisine.  In North America, peanut butter may be the most frequently eaten “nut food.”  But really, there’re just so many of these nutritional powerhouses we’ve been missing out on! Think of sunflower seeds, chickpea hummus, lentil salad, almond butter, etc.  These are all high-protein plant-based options that can easily be incorporated into your diet.

For some people, the fact that people from the Mediterranean region drink one to two glasses of wine with meals is music to their ears!  Think of it, wine, for instance, is actually made from plant-based fruit.  That’s the reason why red wine is a rich source of flavonoid phenolics — a type of antioxidants which protect against heart disease and prevent blood clotting.

We often talk about staying away from the bad stuff — trans fat, preservatives, artificial colorings, excessive salt — in packaged foods. Eating the Mediterranean way with lots of whole, plant-based foods is a sure way to stay away from highly-processed packaged foods.

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