Ever wonder what the big fuss is about the Mediterranean diet? I’m sure you have heard about it. If you haven’t, it is a diet that is rich in nuts, vegetables, fish, and fruits. It is said that the diet helps reduce one’s risk of developing chronic disease later in life and helps prolong life. Why? The most common diet out there today is the ‘Western diet’, which is a diet high in preservatives and animal fats, but low in fruits and veggies. According to research a diet with such combination can be held somewhat responsible for aggravating and triggering cancers and chronic diseases later in life. We all know that living a long healthy life along with good mental health is very important. For me personally it is very sad to see a patient who cannot remember their family members, when to eat, what is okay for them to eat, when to take their medications, etc. Family is most certainly important but so is food. Remembering to eat an ‘x’ amount of healthy calories each day is very important to keep your body functioning properly.
Many studies have been done and show that there is a link between the Mediterranean diet which is full of healthy energy rich foods and mental health. It has been shown to decrease physical and mental problems as well as chronic diseases in the later years of life. I have discussed this diet with patients before, who begin to ask millions of questions which is great because they are showing interests in what they have to change. But, don’t freak out, it is really just a healthy diet. Plus, it is never too soon to start this diet but like any other change in the diet it will take time. Some people are able to switch cold turkey, but it has been seen way too many times before that the patients who do this fall off the wagon and never get back on. Slow and steady wins the race!
If you want to get technical these are the guidelines for the Mediterranean diet:
- Base meals on fruits, veggies, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs, and spices
- Choose healthy (unsaturated fats): olive, canola, soybean, and flaxseed oil
- Limit the unhealthy (saturated) fats
- Eat fish at least twice a week
- Consume moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products each day or weekly
- Consume moderate amounts of poultry and eggs every 2 days or weekly
- Limit red meats to a few times a month and limit portion to 3oz
- Limit sweets and desserts to a few times a week
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Drink plenty of water
You may be thinking ‘yeah this is never going to happen’, but starting to adapt this diet can be as easy as changing out the butter in a recipe for olive oil. Try sprucing up veggies a little so they don’t get boring after two weeks. Switch out your white rice for brown rice or quinoa. Try fresh veggies with salsa or hummus in place of chips and pretzels.
Make a change in the diet is a lifestyle change. It takes patients, hard work, and determination. Having a support group or ‘buddy’ to make these changes with you is more beneficial.