The Best Diet in The World Promotes Whole Grains
Did you know that the Mediterranean Diet has been ranked the healthiest diet for 2 years running by the World Report!? The health benefits of a Mediterranean Diet include reducing your risk of type two diabetes, heart disease, metabolic disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases and cancer. So how do you jump on board with this champion of diets?
Firstly, it is important to distinguish that there are many different types of Mediterranean diets but the one linked to health is based off a traditional peasant style diet. The ten commandments to follow are:
- Be Savvy in Fat Choice.
The main source of fat in this diet comes from extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form and highest in antioxidants and phytochemicals which protect your body. It also has over 36 different antioxidants! Based on the Smiles study (see reference below) the aim is to include olive oil at around 60mls/day (10mls is around 2 teaspoons)
- All Carbs Are Not Equal.
The refined varieties of grain cannot give the same nutrition value as whole grain varieties. This includes fibre, vitamins and mineral like iron to allow oxygen to be transported throughout your body. Also zinc for a strong immune system, B vitamins to allow your body to make energy from the food you eat, magnesium needed for normal nerve and muscle function. Phosphorus and manganese for strong bones and copper needed for making red blood cells and maintaining your nerve cells. One of the many whole grain choices include RICE THINS™ Wholegrain and CORN THINS™ products.
- Love your greens!
Vegetables are included every meal and the goal is 400g a day. To put this into perspective a handful of leafy greens is about 75g or half a cup of cooked vegetables. Tomatoes count as a vegetable in this case and are suggested to be included as part of this diet.
- Baked beans are good for your heart the more you eat the more you…
Beans or legumes are included at least twice a week with a serve being 250g. You can achieve this by adding red kidney beans instead of using meat in your pasta sauce. Or keep things simple and enjoy the classic baked beans on toast more often.
Why not add chickpeas to a salad? For a delicious snack try roasting your favourite beans and flavouring with herbs and spices. Beans are great as they pack a huge punch when it comes to nutrition. They are high in protein and fibre to keep you full as well as decrease your risk of cancers like colorectal cancer (the opposite effect to red and processed meat).
- Enjoy seafood.
Fish or seafood is included twice a week with a serve being 150g. You do not need to buy the most expensive fish there is. Tuna in a tin is fine and can be more affordable for those on a budget. Seafood gives your body lots of the healthy polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 fatty acids which have many benefits for your brain, skin and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Mind How Much You Love Red and White Meats.
Aim to fill up on the legumes and fish meals first then fill the gaps with red meat or chicken. Preferably select the leanest cuts with the excess fat and skin removed to reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat. This type of fat is linked to heart disease as it increases your LDL cholesterol, clogging your arteries and ultimately leading to a heart attack or stroke (sad I know as this can be the tastiest parts but it is a hidden killer).
- Fruit is Not the Enemy.
Fruit is an amazing composition of antioxidants, fibre and yes, some sugar in the form of fructose. Try eating 2 larger whole fruit pieces like a banana, orange or pear or two smaller pieces like mandarins, plums or peaches as a serve every day.
Be careful with dried fruit as it is energy dense, less filling and you do not get to enjoy as much for a serve e.g. 1.5 teaspoons of sultanas are a serve or 2 dried apricots. Try not to drink your fruit but if you must 125mls of 100% fruit juice is a serve.
- Go Yo Yo For Yoghurt.
Enjoy yoghurt every day on this diet. Yoghurt provides your body with good sources of protein and carbohydrates. It is also high in calcium, iodine, vitamin D, selenium, choline, B12 to name a few. Some varieties of yoghurt will include probiotics. These are the good bacteria which support a healthy gut microbiome which is essential for good health.
- You Are What You Eat…Nuts!
Nuts are often seen as fattening, but moderate nut consumption has been linked to the opposite effect and a smaller waist circumference. Try 30g or a small handful of any nut’s variety a day. To keep your heart healthy aim for no added salt.
- Wine in Moderation and Only with Meals.
This one I am not a huge fan of adding. If you do not drink now, I suggest not starting. If you do drink, only in moderation and if following the guidelines this is 2 standard drinks at maximum a day for men and women, with no more than 4 standard drinks on any one occasion. Having a few alcohols free days a week is always good to give your liver a break.
Skip the salt, to flavour your meals and snacks use herbs and spices like garlic, basil, mint or rosemary. Adding herbs and spices will add taste without increasing your blood pressure or added sugar.
If you are wondering where the sweets are included in this diet, they are allowed but only on occasion and a taste. To follow in lines with the current guidelines in Australia this means 600kJ or 143 calories at most twice a week.
Take home message: The Mediterranean Diet is very much like the guidelines in Eat for Health in Australia. Saying this having these ten commandments may be a different way to help you make a routine. Helping you to structure a balanced diet which you can stick to. If you are going to follow a ‘diet’ this is the one to pick.