A beginner’s guide to the Mediterranean diet

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Touted as one of the healthiest diets in the world, what is the Mediterranean diet?

By Rebecca Traylen (ANutr)

Often touted as one of the healthiest diets in the world and advocated for by health professionals, the Mediterranean diet has established itself as one of the best ways to eat.

Rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and healthful fats, it is associated with several health benefits, from protecting heart health to reducing the risk of a number of diseases.

Rebecca Traylen, Associate Nutritionist and Head of Nutrition at Probio7 looks at the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and how to get started:

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet has been adapted from the dietary habits of countries neighbouring the Mediterranean Sea, mostly Greece and Southern Italy. It has since become a diet of interest due to its numerous health benefits.

The Mediterranean diet is characterised by:

  • High consumption of fat, primarily from extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and nuts.
  • High consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and unprocessed cereals.
  • Moderate intake of oily fish.
  • Moderate intake of fermented dairy products.
  • Moderate intake of alcohol (in the form of wine during a meal).
  • Rare consumption of red meat, sweets, processed foods, and dairy.

Mediterranean diet benefits

The Mediterranean diet has numerous health benefits.

It has been linked to several conditions, including increasing longevity, whilst decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, certain cancers, and cognitive impairment.

Is the Mediterranean diet good for gut health?

The Mediterranean diet encourages a high intake of fibre, which is beneficial for the gut. For example, wholemeal quinoa, pasta, and wraps are a great source of fibre.

Some types of fibre are classed as prebiotics, prebiotics act as a food source for our friendly bacteria helping them grow and thrive in our gut microbiome.

Oily fish contain Omega-3 which increases bacteria in the gut and has been shown to produce anti-inflammatory chemicals called short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids in the gut play several vital roles in many of the body’s processes.

Mediterranean diet 7-day meal plan

Here is what a week on the Mediterranean diet might look like:

Monday

Breakfast – Greek yogurt with granola and a banana

Morning snack – Handful of almonds

Lunch – Chicken salad with a sprinkling of seeds

Afternoon snack – Fruit

Dinner – Vegetable lasagne

Tuesday

Breakfast – Wholemeal toast with 2 poached eggs

Morning snack – Handful of walnuts

Lunch – Quinoa and falafel salad with a balsamic vinaigrette

Afternoon snack – Roasted chickpeas

Dinner – Salmon and a bed of lentils

Wednesday

Breakfast – Mushroom and pepper omelette with parmesan cheese

Morning snack – Fruit

Lunch – Quinoa and chicken salad with a balsamic vinaigrette

Afternoon snack – Hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks

Dinner – Wholemeal pasta with a homemade capers and tomato sauce

Thursday

Breakfast – Greek yogurt with granola and a banana

Morning snack – Dried fruit

Lunch – Avocado on wholemeal toast

Afternoon snack – Olives

Dinner – Vegetable chili with quinoa

Friday

Breakfast – Poached eggs on wholemeal toast

Morning snack – Cashew nuts

Lunch – Vegetable chili with a sweet potato jacket

Afternoon snack – Fruit

Dinner – Sea bass with steamed broccoli and kale

Saturday

Breakfast – Greek yogurt with granola and fruit

Morning snack – Dates stuff with almond butter

Lunch – Tuna, feta, and olive salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Afternoon snack – Hummus with carrots and rice cakes

Dinner – Roasted vegetable and chickpea stew with wholemeal pasta

Sunday

Breakfast – Frittata with peas and feta

Morning snack – Roasted chickpeas and nuts

Lunch – Wholemeal pitta with falafels and hummus

Afternoon snack – Handful of berries

Dinner – Fish tacos

Mediterranean diet snack ideas

If you find yourself hungry between meals, there are plenty of Mediterranean diet-approved snacks:

  • Handful of nuts
  • Roasted chickpeas – roast chickpeas with paprika and cumin
  • Hummus with vegetable sticks
  • Olives
  • Tin of tuna with capers
  • Handful of berries
  • Dates stuffed with almond butter
  • Fruit and dried fruit

Net Doctor

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