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The importance of a Mediterranean diet has been explained, so now we can discuss in detail what foods make up this so-called diet. Called a Mediterranean diet because it incorporates foods and cooking styles used by countries and islands bordering and situated in the Mediterranean Sea.
Benefits of the diet
Besides the already mentioned benefit of this diet being that it reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications and mortality rates in patients with heart disease, there are other benefits to it as well. These may include the following:
- Lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) fats in the bloodstream.
- Women can have a reduced rate of breast cancer.
- There may be a reduced incidence of neurodegenerative issues such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
- Generally reduced incidence of cancer.
A Mediterranean diet focuses on the following foods and products:
- Vegetables and fruit - one should try and consume 7-10 servings of these foods every day. A variety should also be incorporated to avoid repetition and eventual disdain for these foods.
- Whole grain versions of foods such as cereals, breads, pastas and rice should be eaten. The increased fibre from these foods will also benefit the gastrointestinal tract and keep the colon more regular. Plenty of water should also be consumed on a daily basis to prevent constipation.
- Legumes and nuts such as cashews, almonds, pistachios and macadamias should be consumed and in moderation. Tahini (made from sesame seeds) is a good alternative for use as a spread on bread or as a dip.
- The use of herbs and spices to flavour food instead of salt.
- Olive oil is used to replace butter. The extra-virgin version of this oil is unrefined which makes it a good fat to use. It can be consumed raw and poured in salads as well as be used for cooking food.
- Red meat should be limited to only be consumed a few days in a month. If red meat is eaten then it should be lean meats with minimal fat on it, as well as the animal being grass-fed as this affects the fat make-up of the meat. High-fat meats such as bacon and sausages should be avoided if possible.
- Fish and poultry should be eaten at the very least 2 times a week. Fresh salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout and herring are healthy choices as they contain omega-3 which the body needs. Grilled fish is a better cooking options than frying it in oil and also tastes great.
- Dairy products may be consumed as long as they have limited fat content such as skim milk, low-fat cheeses and fat-free yogurts.
- Making sure that one is physically active and even getting plenty of aerobic exercise in. This can aid in reducing a person's waist circumference, which also reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular complications.
- If one consumes alcohol, then it should be limited to a glass of red wine 2-3 times per week. If a person doesn't consume alcohol then one doesn't need to start drinking wine.