The modified (American) Mediterranean Diet may be one of the most heart healthy diets. This high fiber, low-saturated fat diet can help to improve cholesterol and overall health of the cardiovascular system. Combining this diet with regular daily exercise will maximize your benefits.
This is not the same as a low calorie diet for weight loss, but it can still be followed for that purpose. You just have to count your calories and keep your portion sizes reasonable.
Basically, this diet consists of an abundance of vegetables and fruits, as well as fish and the heart-healthy oils like those from olives, fish, and nuts. Don’t get caught up in the name. It is not a diet rich in butter and pastas seen in some parts of the Mediterranean.
Many traditional “low-fat” diets encourage very little consumption of any fat. Some diets have you eating as little as 10% of your calories from fat. But the Mediterranean diet allows substantial fat in the diet as long as it is the right type of fat. Approximately 30% of your calories may come from fat according to these diet guidelines. The only way to know what you are consuming is to start looking up your foods and adding up the numbers.
So what foods are allowed or encouraged in the Mediterranean diet?
High Consumption of:
Olive oil (light olive oil and canola oil may be substituted at times)
Legumes (beans, peas, etc.)
Vegetables (go for lots of variety)
Fruits (go for lots of variety)
Unrefined cereals (think oatmeal, not bread)
Moderate Consumption of:
Fish (particularly salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring) (avoid catfish)
Dairy (mostly cheeses and yogurts)
Low-Moderate Consumption of:
Alcohol (think 1 glass of wine or beer with dinner, or less)
Low Consumption of:
Meats (chicken, beef, pork, turkey, lamb)
Very Limited or No Consumption of:
Other refined or processed foods
Other animal or saturated fats
Most pre-prepared packaged foods/meals
Plan ahead and practice sticking with the Mediterranean Diet, and you will find the diet easy to follow and beneficial for your health. Search around the internet for recipe ideas - the possibilities are endless.
Here is an example of a delicious Mediterranean Cumber Salad:
2 large cucumbers, sliced or
1/4 to 1/2 Vidalia or your favorite onion
2-3 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives
2-3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons light flavored olive oil
1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (dried herbs)
Salt to taste
Whisk the liquids and seasoning into a uniform liquid. Gradually whisk in some salt until it suits your taste. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together in a sealable container. Refrigerate at least one hour, tossing a few times along the way. Or you can mix once and let it rest overnight in the fridge. If you feel like you don't have enough liquid, add a little more vinegar and oil.
If you like a milder onion flavor, let the onions soak in a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar for about an hour. Discard this vinegar, and then use these pickled onions in the recipe above.
Experimentation is fun, so feel free to alter the proportions based on your own personal preferences. Or add ingredients, like some cherry tomatoes! Or try different types of vinegars or seasonings! A little fresh lemon juice or half teaspoon of honey is nice, too.