What is a Mediterranean diet?
Since spending the past 3 months in Spain, I have been increasingly interested in understanding ‘What is a Mediterranean diet.’ Right now, with Covid-19 impacting all our lives, our health and immunity need to be as strong as possible. So I thought I would delve a little deeper and see what is a Mediterranean diet and how can it benefit us all.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
There is LESS consumption of poultry, eggs and dairy.
Red meat is eaten RARELY and processed foods are AVOIDED.
For me the one thing that stands out is avoiding processed foods, eating clean as we would perhaps call it now. Cooking fresh, seasonal, local produce and avoiding foods that have sugar added, or unrefined oils, meats that have been processed and containing nitrates.
Is it really as simple as this?
Well the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea including France, Spain, Italy and Malta all have high life expectancy rates. All within the top 20, according to the World Health Organisation in 2018. In comparison, the UK is 23 and the US, surprising me at 34th. In an article published in The Lancet, Spain’s average life expectancy is expected to be over 85 by 2040, with possibly becoming number one, the highest ranking country in the world!
Knowing these facts, makes me believe there is something in this, but I researched it a little further and what is also fascinating is the lifestyle of these countries.
Whilst many working long hours, there is undoubtedly a more relaxed approach to life here in Spain. During my stay now and on other visits to the country, one thing that is hard to miss is how much the Spanish love to walk. Venture out to any promenade once the heat of the day has vanished, and it will be busy, with people walking, jogging or cycling. On the beach they’ll be people playing volleyball or soccer and in the sea there will be swimmers, paddle boarders and kayaks.
37% of the working population commute each day, either by cycling or walking! The climate here lends itself to an active lifestyle and it’s benefits are abundant.
So what is a Mediterranean diet, if it is not about the food?
Well the food obviously plays a huge part in the health of the Mediterranean’s and of course exercise, too. We all know this, it is what we’re told each and every day. Eat well, live well! However, I also found some other interesting facts about life in Spain.
The Spanish it seems enjoy life. They have healthy sex lives, enjoy a glass of red wine and look forward to sharing a meal together with friends and family. Their social life is more of a priority than for other nationalities, they understand the importance of taking time of their meals and how important it is for their stress levels to relax and spend time when they can enjoy themselves.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences also found that the Spanish are more likely to use positive words, such as ‘love’ and ‘laughter’ rather than negative adjectives, such as ‘sad’ and ‘tearful.’ Their language to one another is more compassionate and kinder. How lovely is this?? We all feel better when someone gives us a compliment or makes us smile and it seems to make a long term impact on our general health!
What can we do, to improve our own diets?
The Mediterranean diet is so highly regarded it is actually recommended by the NHS in the UK. They believe together with exercise it can help you to lose weight, and help prevent heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes, all common diseases and killers in the Western World.
Here are some tips to help you change your diet, so that you too can help improve your health.
Remember the oils that you use to dress your food are important a good extra virgin olive oil to have with your bread, or with a salad, can elevate any meal and is considered a healthy fat. If you’re not sure which one to buy, click here to see what we recommend.
Each meal time, ensure you have a piece of fruit or portion of vegetables.
If you have porridge or cereal, add some chopped berries or banana, any fruit, whatever is you favourite.
With your toast, enjoy some cooked tomatoes and mushrooms, maybe with a little smashed avocado, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil – probably my all time favourite!!
Soups and salads are a fantastic choice. Follow me on Instagram www.Instagram.com/graceandlivewell and you will see lots of inspiring dishes that will help you with this!
Soups and salads help you to avoid sandwiches, which I always think can be a real trap, into unhealthy eating. If you do have to have a sandwich use bread that is wholegrain, and avoid processed meats. A little sliced turkey or chicken, would be great and top with plenty of salad: leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, whatever you like!
For you final meal of the day, try to have fish, at a very minimum twice a week, oily fish is especially good for you, rich in Omega 3, such as mackerel and sardines. Also, seafood is recommended, another favourite of mine is spaghetti with prawns and chilli, and to finish a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, (honestly if I ever run out at home, no meal feels complete!!). Try to avoid too much carbohydrate especially if you are trying to lose weight, eat a smaller portion of spaghetti, but eat with a large salad and you will be on the right track!
I hope you have found this helpful!! Living well isn’t as simple as sticking to a strict diet, it is an approach to life where we make the right decisions. If we want to live and be healthy into our old age, the Mediterranean diet seems a great place to start.
Eat fresh foods and avoid processed foods,(THIS IS HUGE, and if I would offer one tip, remove margerine and processed butters from your life and replace with a good quality extra virgin olive oil, we recommend this one Pompeian Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil if you rely on convenience maybe consider ways of preparing you food in advance.
Exercise is important and so is enjoying yourself. When I find my life is getting a little too serious, I always make sure I have something to look forward to. Don’t leave it too long. If life is feeling stressing, plan a date night, meet a friend for a walk, socialise and remember to smile! A delicious home cooked meal with friends once a week. A walk along the promenade and saying a few thoughtful and kind words in a loved one’s ear, may make all the difference!
Stay healthy people!
Live Well, Grace