Mediterranean diet benefits! The health benefits, 8 tips and 3 recipes!
Are you looking for a healthy way of eating?
There are so many diets and dietary guidelines that you can hardly see the forest through the trees.
But the Mediterranean diet still stands out. It is not actually a diet, but more a lifestyle and a way of eating.
You eat a lot of vegetables, you choose healthy fats and eat less meat and bread. Is it healthy?
There is a reason why people in the Mediterranean are getting so old!
Greece and Sardinia
There are certain zones in the world where people are very healthy and older than average. These are the so-called blue zones. Here people often become 100 years or older. Two areas are extra here. These are Sardinia in Italy and Ikaria in Greece. The way of eating is an important cause of their good health.
The striking thing is that it is not a single diet. The population of Spain is different from that of Greece or Southern France. So there are a number of nutrients that are used in the diet that are healthy, but the way of eating as a whole is varied. Every kitchen uses other products. You can see that they often eat locally grown vegetables, it is fresh and the quality of the food is high.
The blue zones also have a different life rhythm
Not only does the food differ from yours. The life rhythm is different. It is all a bit more relaxed, people are less stressed. Life is also adapted to the heat in the summer, for example, they keep a siesta. Furthermore, family ties are important and are often eaten together.
Compare this with your high workload, the many appointments on one day, how we have to do everything on time and see our family once every two months. Many people feel alone and experience little support from the environment. In addition to diet, the lifestyle is also important. But with food, you can already achieve a lot for your health.
The basis of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on eating habits from the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It is true that it mainly goes back to the sixties (because nowadays people in Greece and Spain, for example, are increasingly eating a Western diet). These are the characteristics of the Mediterranean diet:
- Fresh products of high quality
- Use of olive oil
- The basis consists of vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, fish
- Little red meat
- As little sugar and processed products as possible
Because the Mediterranean diet is so diverse, you can not easily say which products do and which do not belong. That is also because they make different dishes in each country, have access to different products and draw on different traditions. But that also gives you the opportunity to choose dishes or products from countries that you prefer. This way you can enjoy eating very varied.
Important components in the Mediterranean diet
Many vegetables are used. The basis of the diet is vegetable food. You can eat all kinds of vegetables that you want. In the west, the emphasis is very much on meat and large quantities of it are eaten here. Often people eat around 250 grams of meat per meal in a western diet and this is not recommended in the Mediterranean diet. You can reduce this to 100 grams. In addition, you should only eat red meat once a week.
Usually, the inhabitants of countries around the Mediterranean drink a glass of red wine with food. We do not recommend drinking wine every day for your health, but occasionally drinking a glass of wine can have a positive effect, for example on blood pressure. Often, water is also drunk with meals.
Especially the extra virgin oil is widely used.
In the West, fats are often looked at carefully and we are taught that they are dangerous.
The fats in olive oil are healthy and support a healthy heart.
Eggs and dairy
You can eat in moderation. Yogurt, cheese and milk are used. Where in for example the Netherlands dairy is often central and especially milk and cheese are consumed, this is not the case in the Mediterranean sea areas.
Fish and seafood
Fish and seafood are eaten more often than in a western diet. It is recommended to do this twice a week.
You can think of fresh or saltwater fish, mussels, crab and lobster, octopus and the like.
Fish and seafood contain healthy fats and many proteins that contribute to your physical health.
No processed products
Another plus is that as much as possible is chosen for unprocessed products. As a result, you will not encounter products such as soft drinks, candy, white bread and processed meat such as hamburgers and hot dogs.
Light products, which contain chemical sweeteners, also do not fit within the Mediterranean diet.
In a western diet, we eat a lot of carbohydrates in a day. You can find them in bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. In the Mediterranean diet, these have a lesser role. Mostly whole grain and unrefined grains are eaten.
Healthy and fresh herbs are used, such as basil, thyme and oregano.
The use of salt should be limited.
The Mediterranean diet is a healthier diet than the ‘normal’ western diet. The balance between the different fats is better, it stimulates the activity of the intestines and the pancreas and it contains a lot of fiber for a healthy digestion.
You do not have to count calories if you use the Mediterranean diet. You can eat three meals a day and twice a healthy snack. To learn more about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, see the next point in this article.
What can you eat in the Mediterranean diet?
Vegetables: All kinds of vegetables, such as spinach, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, bell peppers.
Fruit: All fruits, such as oranges, bananas, strawberries, grapes, dates, melon, peach, pears, apples.
Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts
Whole grain cereals: oats, barley, maize, rye, wheat, buckwheat.
Herbs and spices: preferably fresh, garlic, basil, oregano, mint, rosemary, nutmeg, pepper.
Meat: red meat in moderation, chicken, turkey, duck.
Fish and seafood: Trout, salmon, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, sardines, mussels.
Legumes and potatoes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Eggs, dairy and cheese
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
This diet has many benefits for your health.
Listed below are the most important:
Longer life span and more health
Research shows that people in the Mediterranean region are on average 20% healthier and they live longer. When you start with it, you can quickly notice the benefits of this way of eating. With the Mediterranean diet, you can actually age years.
Helps with weight loss
Although this diet is not specifically meant to lose weight, you will find that you can lose weight simply by choosing healthy products. You eat varied and choose less sugar and processed products.
You also eat fewer carbohydrates and if you eat them, they are healthy. This diet helps to gain and maintain a healthy weight.
You get valuable nutrients
To stay healthy and fit, it is important to follow a diet that is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.
The Mediterranean diet contains this plenty. Because you eat a lot of vegetables, fruit and legumes you provide your body with everything it needs.
These healthy substances also help to keep dangerous diseases at bay and slow down the aging process.
Reduces the risk of cancer
The monounsaturated fatty acids (omega 3, 6 and 9), large amounts of antioxidants and phytosterols make the Mediterranean diet very healthy and help reduce the risk of cancer.
This applies to colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
Helps prevent diabetes
Diabetes is a disease that is increasingly common in many countries globally. According to research from 2015, 1 in 3 people develop diabetes and 50% of the population is already in the early stages of diabetes. A diet that helps keep your blood sugar in balance and prevent diabetes is not a luxury.
Eating simple, fast carbohydrates stimulates diabetes. Fast carbohydrates overreact to the pancreas. It therefore makes insulin even if you get little sugar. Your cells ultimately do not respond to insulin anymore. The result is that your blood sugar level remains constantly too high. Diabetes is a dangerous disease.
With the Mediterranean diet, you get a lot of fiber and slow carbohydrates inside. This ensures that the blood sugar level remains stable. The good fats from olive oil, fish and nuts are also healthy for your heart and blood vessels.
Nutrients from the Mediterranean diet and their effect
Olive oil is also still mixed with cheaper soy oil or rapeseed oil. That is why it is important to invest in a pure, sun-ripened olive oil.
Only then can you count on added value for your health.
Pure extra virgin olive oil is rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, antioxidants and polyphenols. Unfortunately, these substances are lost when you heat the olive oil.
If you want to bake, you better use virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
What is olive oil good for?
- Olive oil reduces the amount of triglycerin in blood. This is a bad cholesterol that can block the blood vessels. So olive oil protects the heart and blood vessels.
- Has a blood pressure lowering effect.
- Reduces the risk of breast cancer and other forms of cancer.
- In combination with eating fish, it helps reduce the chance of getting rheumatism by 80%.
- Helps to prevent osteoporosis
Herbs give your meal a lot of flavor, but are also very healthy. They contain vitamins and antioxidants, but often also have a specific effect on our body. For example, peppermint can calm the stomach and help thyme if you suffer from coughing. But herbs contain even more valuable substances.
Herbs contain the so-called salvestrols. They make this fabric to protect themselves against the dangers of nature: against fungi, insects and bacteria.
The more dangers there are for a plant, the more salvestrols they produce. Salvestrols are covered by the polyphenols and they are healthy for us.
In the Mediterranean diet, you can find a lot of vegetables, fruits and herbs that contain salvestrols.
For example, arugula, aubergines, peppers, mint, sage, thyme and basil. Fruits such as raspberries, pears and prunes also contain salvestrols. Research shows that piperine, which is in black pepper, helps to absorb these polyphenols.
Garlic is widely used in the Mediterranean countries. Not only because it makes food spicy and tasty, but also because garlic and the other members of the garlic family (such as onion, shallots and leeks) have very valuable properties.
- Reducing blood pressure
- Increase the good cholesterol HDL
- Help plaque break down in the veins
- Have an antifungal effect
- Protect against viruses and bacteria
- Contain sulfur and selenium that support the liver
- Reduce the risk of diabetes by improving the sensitivity to insulin of cells
Fish is eaten in the countries around the Mediterranean, including salmon. Now almost all types of fish are healthy, but salmon stands out. Packed with healthy fats that protect the heart and blood vessels, rich in omega 3 that helps to lower cholesterol and inhibit inflammation. Omega 3 is good for the skin, for healthy bones and teeth and the immune system.
Regular salmon eating can protect the body against stroke and dementia. Salmon helps in the production of vitamin D, a vitamin that can help prevent depression. Fish contains a lot of proteins, which are important for the development and maintenance of muscles.
These nuts can be used as a snack within the Mediterranean diet. They also grow in parts of the Mediterranean.
Spain is one of the largest producers in Europe. Almonds are a good source of fiber and contain a lot of magnesium and vitamin E (an antioxidant that protects your cells and tissues).
They contain little saturated fat, are rich in potassium and help to regulate blood pressure.
As a snack, you can take a handful of almonds, use almond flour to bake cookies or drink almond milk.
This nut, which is not a nut but a stone fruit, just like a peach, contains the most antioxidants of all nuts.
They also contain many unsaturated fatty acids. This helps to lower the cholesterol level.
Furthermore, they are full of important minerals, such as copper and zinc.
Walnuts are also good for digestion, they contain a lot of fiber. Research shows that they help regulate blood pressure and protect against stress.
The 8 best tips to get everything out of the Mediterranean diet
1. It is recommended to receive at least the following per day or per week:
- Olive oil: 4 tablespoons per day
- Vegetables: 200-300 grams per day
- Nuts: 30 grams per day
- Legumes: more than three times a week
- Fatty fish: 3 times a week
2. Healthy snacks are:
- A handful of nuts
- A few carrots
- Some salad from the day before
- A bowl of Greek yogurt
- Pieces of apple with almond butter
3. Base your evening meals on the vegetables you eat.
Carbohydrates in the form of potatoes, rice or pasta are not always necessary. If you do choose, take the whole-wheat version of pasta and rice.
4. Be creative with the preparation of your meals.
You can cook your vegetables, but also stir, steam or grill in the oven.
5. Use herbs to get variety in flavor.
They are healthy, but also give a lot of flavors. You do not have to limit yourself to Mediterranean herbs. Also think of coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric.
6. Find products that are produced in your area.
You often find an organic farm that sells fruit and vegetables. Go to the market to buy fresh local produce.
7. Eat three meals a day.
Make sure your breakfast, lunch and dinner are healthy meals. Take a maximum of two snacks. Do not skip your breakfast. Your body needs the energy to start up and get the digestive system going.
8. Does the Mediterranean diet appeal to you and do you want to immerse yourself in the Mediterranean lifestyle?
Pay attention to the following points:
- Having a goal in your life is important. This can be social, sporting or work-related. But a goal in your life gives direction and satisfaction.
- Move enough. Do some physical activity
- Maintain your social network well. Give support to others who need it and ask for help if you need it yourself.
- Give a lot of attention to your family, invest time and energy into this.
- Provide as little stress as possible in your life. Keep pause now and then and take the time to get back to yourself.
- Consider important traditions (or if you do not have them, bring traditions in your life). Celebrate a party, enjoy important moments in your life.
3 easy Mediterranean diet recipes
Below you will find 3 delicious recipes that you can use in the Mediterranean diet:
- 200 grams of black olives, pitted
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 2 anchovy fillets
- Fresh red pepper to taste
- Some finely cut flat parsley
- 1 tablespoon of lime juice
- 8 tablespoons of olive oil
Use a food processor to mix all ingredients except the olive oil. Grind it as nice as you like. Then add the olive oil. The tapenade can be stored for several days in the fridge.
Recipe for 3 people, preparation time 25 minutes
- 2 fennel tubers
- 1 large sweet onion
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- Pepper and salt to taste
- 40 grams of parmesan cheese or pecorino
Turn the oven on and let it preheat to 200 degrees.
Cut the fennel into pieces, you can remove the middle hard part. Cut the onion into thin slices and place the vegetables in an oven dish. Squeeze the garlic above. Drizzle with oil and add pepper and salt to taste. Stir everything together. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the cheese over it. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Salad of chicken with walnuts
Recipe for 4 people
- 1 head lollo rosso lettuce or oak leaf lettuce
- 75 grams of rocket
- 400 grams of chicken
- 400 grams of kidney beans
- 1 red onion in slices
- 2 tomatoes in pieces
- 1 avocado in pieces
- 100 grams of walnuts
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- Juice of 1 lemon
Fry the chicken in a pan and let it cool down a bit. Mix all ingredients for the salad. Cut the fried chicken into pieces and add it to the salad. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a container. Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy your healthy salad.
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