I am not a big believer in diets of any shape, size or form. I am, instead, a HUGE proponent of healthy, sustainable lifestyle choices and changes that will help you achieve your health goals without unhealthy mindsets or unrealistic goals. That is why I want to discuss the Mediterranean Diet today. I want to outline what it is, why so many authorities swear by it, and why I consider it a “don’t do diet”. I’m also going to provide you with a list of incredible, mouthwatering recipes so that you can start to enjoy Mediterranean food at home as often as you’d like!
What Is The Mediterranean Diet
I happen to have an incredibly dismal grasp on geography. To mean, when I hear the word “Mediterranean” my brain automatically associates it with either the trendy and popular diet or an image of the clearest blue waters and quaint mountainside cottages. Writing this post, I actually had to use Wikipedia to come to terms with exactly what areas of the world are considered Mediterranean; if you’re interested, you can check out the same List of Mediterranean Countries that I referenced. The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, I am much more familiar with.
I’m sure your familiar with the S.A.D. – the aptly acronym-ed Standard American Diet. In recent years it has become synonymous with convenience, speed, ease and, sadly, disease. One of my favorite quotes of all times is this:
“Every time you eat or drink, you ate either feeding disease or fighting it.” – Heather Morgan, MS, NLC SUCH POWERFUL WORDS! Food has been proven time and time again to be the root cause of most of our modern chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancers. But the wonderful thing I’d that it can also be used to fight and prevent those same diseases! Choose your weapons wisely!
The SAD, unfortunately, leads to disease. On the other hand, many believe that the Mediterranean Diet fights disease. The trendy “diet” is simply a way of eating that is based off the most commonly eaten Mediterranean foods – what the locals consume. In reality, there are many variations of local Mediterranean eating plans, due to social, political and economic differences between Mediterranean countries, but the popular diet focuses on the items that are most common across the board: primarily fresh, seasonal vegetables, low to moderate amounts of dairy products, fish and poultry, very little red meat, eggs, wine, and beer. Oh yeah, and olive oil. Olive oil is a big component of the Mediterranean Diet.
In stark contrast to the SAD, this particular eating plan is more or less completely free of fried foods that have been cooked in rancid vegetable oils or trans fats.
Why is the Mediterranean Diet So Healthy?
One of the reasons the Mediterranean Diet is so popular right now is because it is believed to be one of the healthiest ways of eating if you would like to live longer, have more energy, and lower your risk of disease.
It started to gain traction after WWII when the incredibly low rate of heart disease was noticed – in comparison to the ever growing rate in the USA. Studies began, and many have been done in the years since.
The most notable finding was that the Mediterranean eating plan was 90% plant-based – fresh, season fruits, vegetables and other plant matter like nuts, and seeds. They eat a very small amount of fish, meat and dairy and essentially no fried or preserved foods. This lead to a rate of heart disease that was 20 times lower in the Mediterranean countries than it was in the USA.
Other studies show a decrease in risk for MS, diabetes, strokes, cognitive decline, depression and obesity.
Mediterranean food was an incredible foundation for health. Unfortunately, the operative word in that sentence is “was.” These days, the normal eating plans and meaning of “Mediterranean food” has changed, even for people within the local countries.
One study compared the prevalence of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease in men from Crete between the years of 1960 to 1991 and found: “In conclusion, the prevalence of CHD RF and CVD was much higher in 1991 than in 1960 for Cretan men of the same age group. This higher prevalence seems to be related to dietary and life-style changes that have taken place in Crete during the last thirty years.”
If you watch the video below, it references the same study, which continued on to blame the increasing risk for heart disease on the “significant changes in the Creten diet over twenty-six years (consumption of meat and cheese had increased while consumption of bread, fruit and potatoes had decreased.”
Why You Shouldn’t Do the Mediterranean Diet
As you can hopefully now understand, a traditional Mediterranean food eating plan very clearly lead to a healthier nation of people, and a gradual assimilation to an eating plan more closely resembling the SAD lead quickly to a downward health spiral. So you may be wondering right now why I would tell you NOT to do the Mediterranean Diet, assuming we agree on following the more traditional eating habits. Well, the reason is simple: I don’t believe “diets” are sustainable.
If you put yourself to the challenge of starting any diet, there is typically a time-frame in mind, or a specific goal. Once you reach the end of your time commitment or achieve your goal, most people will revert back to their previous habits. If you revert back to your old ways of eating, you will absolutely also get back any weight or health conditions that you were trying to so hard to eliminate with your diet.
So no, I don’t think you should do the Mediterranean Diet. But I do think that you should start enjoying Mediterranean foods within your normal, day-to-day lifestyle as often as you can/want to. The big difference here is mindset. When you’re driving home from work and your stomach is growling and you start thinking about dinner, you can look at your choices in two ways:
- Oh man…I have to make that weird-ass plain pasta for dinner. With salad. Ick…I mean ‘yay…’
- Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to get home – I’ve been dreaming about that avocado pesto ALL DAY and I’m so ready to dig into it!!!
Which one do you think is going to help you make healthy, lasting changes in your life for good?
Which one do you think is going to get you excited to eat dinner?
Mindset is everything when it comes to health, and dieting almost always has a negative connotation which your brain will pick up on and which will lead to you having an unhealthy relationship with your food and your body. But if you truly enjoy your dinner choices, you will change your relationship with food and your to one of pure enjoyment!
Mediterranean Foods/Recipes To Try
One way to ensure that you can increase the appearance of Mediterranean food in your regular eating plan is to arm yourself with a collection of incredibly delicious, super healthy, quite easy recipes that will start your mouth watering instantly! I have gone ahead and asked some of my favorite recipe developers to share their best and brightest Mediterranean Food Recipes.
Do you have a favorite Mediterranean food recipe you’d like to share? Let us know in the links below, and tell us what your favorite from this round-up was