They really seem to have it figured out in the Mediterranean: gorgeous weather, primo vino, and an iconically healthy eating style.
The Mediterranean diet—modeled after the Italians and the Greeks—has been around since the 1960s. And when it comes to food philosophies, this one just keeps getting buzzier. In fact, it just won best diet of 2019.
While trends like the South Beach and alkaline diet may come and go, what is it about this style of eating that makes it a perennial favorite among healthcare providers and the public alike?
The Mediterranean diet’s biggest selling point is its health benefits. It’s been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, among other illness. Research shows that it may even slow aging.
But the real secret may be its flexibility.
“The wonderful thing about the Mediterranean diet is that it’s not really a ‘diet’ at all, but rather a style of eating,” says Cara Harbstreet, RD of Street Smart Nutrition. “The wide variety of foods that comprise the Mediterranean diet leaves plenty of room for taste preferences, seasonal or local eating, and can help you eat in a way that feels authentic to you.”
Harbstreet says that instead of focusing on weight loss, this approach supports the development of healthy habits, like eating more fruits and vegetables. “Because of its flexible nature, there is more opportunity to adapt it to fit your individual lifestyle,” she says.
Want more healthy eating insight? Check out how this professional ballerina fuels her active life:
“The premise is avoiding over-processed, packaged foods and enjoying fresh, whole foods whenever possible,” says Emily Kyle, registered dietitian nutritionist. That means keeping processed meat (think: hot dogs), refined grains (white bread), refined oils (vegetable), and added sugars to a minimum. “This simple approach makes the Mediterranean diet a bit easier to understand and, ultimately, implement in real life.”
The best part is that there are a variety of cuisines and ingredients in the Mediterranean region, which means a ton of options. “The Mediterranean diet is a more flexible approach to eating than other diets,” says Harbstreet. “It even allows for moderate alcohol consumption, such as red wine.” Yes, please!
If you’re interested in following a Mediterranean style of eating, here’s your cheat sheet of which foods to eat:
As you can see there’s a LOT to choose from. So go forth, and make the Mediterranean diet your own.
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