Considering my Greek origin it’s no wonder why I love Mediterranean cuisine so much. I grew up eating the best of it but I must confess around my 20’s I fell for the seduction of a heavier more international cuisine. Legumes and vegetables seemed pretty boring at that age while heavy cream, red meat and sugar became a big part of my diet. It is around 30’s, when we all have our first check ups and blood tests, my doctor advised me to follow a healthier diet because my cholesterol level reached the upper limit and my blood pressure was much higher than it should. What shocked me more than my check up results was the word diet. I hate diet! I hate those sad dishes of dry protein with steamed vegetables and don’t even let me start on light products!
Pretty soon, as the highly organized and control freak I am, I stopped panicking and feeling sorry for myself and started looking for a solution. I HAD to follow a healthier meal plan (not diet) and remain creative in my kitchen since the procedure of cooking is one of the biggest pleasures for me. After some research I realized that going back to my roots would be the best solution. For decades, the Mediterranean diet has been regarded as one of the healthiest in the world and I had only but to dig out my grandma’s recipes and weekly meal plans and put them to use. It is these exact, or creatively enhanced by me, recipes and cooking tips that I intent to share with you here @Live Eat Create.
Following a Mediterranean diet has many benefits, which I am sure you are all familiar with, but there are still a lot of misconceptions on exactly how to take advantage of the lifestyle to lead a healthier, longer life. The following are some myths and facts about the Mediterranean diet.
Myth 1: It costs a lot to eat this way.
Fact: If you’re creating meals out of beans or lentils as your main source of protein, and sticking with mostly plants and whole grains, then the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than serving dishes of packaged or processed foods.
Myth 2: Drinking red wine with every meal is good for your heart.
Fact: Moderate amounts of red wine (one drink a day for women; two for men) certainly has unique health benefits for your heart, but drinking too much has the opposite effect. Anything more than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.
Myth 3: Eating large bowls of pasta and gyros is the Mediterranean way.
Fact: Pizza, gyros, falafel, lasagna, rack of lamb, and long loaves of white bread: all these foods have become misleadingly synonymous with what we call “Mediterranean” at the expense of the region’s traditional fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seafood, olive oil, dairy, and a glass or two of red wine. Yes, pasta and gyros are Mediterranean foods but they are consumed in moderate portions and prepared in a much healthier version traditionally at home.
Myth 4: If you follow the traditional Mediterranean diet then you will lose weight.
Fact: Those living on Greek islands don’t enjoy good cardiovascular health just by eating differently; they walk up and down steep hills to tend to their garden and animals, often living off what they can grow themselves. Physical activity plays a large role.
Myth 5: The Mediterranean diet is only about the food.
Fact: The food is a huge part of the diet, yes, but don’t overlook the other ways the Mediterraneans live their lives. When they sit down for a meal, they don’t sit in front of a television or eat in a rush; they sit down for a relaxed, leisurely meal with others, which may be just as important for your health as what’s on your plate. Daily exercise, sharing meals with others, and fostering a deep appreciation for the pleasures of eating healthy and delicious foods are vital elements to the Mediterranean diet.
Myth 6: All vegetable oils are the same, and equally good for you.
Fact: Things aren’t that simple. There are basically two types of unsaturated vegetable oils: Firstly, traditional, cold-pressed oils such as extra virgin olive oil and peanut oil that are rich in monounsaturated fats and have long been used in the Mediterranean diet. Cold-pressed oils are made without the use of chemicals or heat to extract the oil. Secondly, there are modern processed oils such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil and vegetable oil. These oils are industrially manufactured using high heat and toxic solvents to extract the oil from the seeds. So the answer is no, not all vegetable oils are the same and equally good for you.
6 Tips for an Easy Start to a Mediterranean Diet.
Tip 1: Cook a vegetarian meal once a week. Pick a day of the week and jump on that “meatless day” trend of skipping meat for a day. Mondays could be a great choice for this cause since we normally over consume meat during weekends.
Tip 2: Eat seafood twice a week. Skipping red meat for two more days of the week is a good choice, but consuming fish such as tuna, salmon, herring and sardines which are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, is also a great benefit for brain and heart health.
Tip 3: Choose whole grains instead of refined breads, pasta and rice. Keep in mind that whole grains are not light in calories but they are a better choice for two reasons. One, they are less processed products than the refined ones. Two, whole grains offer high quality fibers in our daily diet.
Tip 4: Substitute sugar with honey. Honey is the liquid gold of nature. Needless to refer the reasons, in every possible occasion use honey instead of sugar. Honey works great as a sweetener for your tea, it could be a great dessert served with nuts – fruits and Greek yogurt and a wonderful choice for breakfast as an alternative to jams.
Tip 5: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Every meal is an opportunity to consume fruits or vegetables. While fruits work great for snacking, vegetables are a great base for phenomenal salads (starter or side dish), super comfort veggie soups or even inspiring veggie main courses. Don’t forget to combine them with legumes for maximum nutrition benefits.
Tip 6: Use good fats. Extra virgin olive oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, olives and avocados are great sources of healthy fats for your daily meals.
Following a healthy diet, to my opinion, doesn’t mean excluding any food groups from your life or sticking to a boring tasteless meal plan. I love food and I think of it as one of life’s biggest pleasures, but making better choices doesn’t mean making any compromises with taste and pleasure. Mediterranean cuisine is a tasty well balanced cuisine, easy to follow once you get to know it’s secrets.
Resources and References
- Adopt a Mediterranean diet now for better health later. – Harvard Health Publications
- Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan. – Mayo Clinic
- Why are Mediterranean diets so healthy? – BBC Good Food
- The Mediterranean Diet. – HelpGuide.Org
- Free Images – Pixabay
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