Lessons from the Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle
The best modern-day example of a traditional diet that can promote vitality and wellness and prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and weight gain comes from the Mediterranean region, including southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, southern France, Greece and the Greek island of Crete. What is so great about these people's diet?
Salads, vegetables, beans, whole grains and fruit are extremely popular. Beans include chick peas, lentils, split peas and fava beans. The most commonly eaten whole grains are polenta, couscous, bulgar, rice and wheat. Lean meat such as lamb, chicken and beef are eaten in small portions. Aside from a small amount of natural cheese and butter, milk products are not generally part of the Mediterranean diet. Interestingly, these people have a lower incidence of osteoporosis than we do in North America, where we consume large amounts of dairy products.
Fresh fruit is a typical dessert and the Mediterranean diet contains very few processed foods. Fresh fruits, which include berries, grapes, figs, prunes, apricots, melons, lemons, tangerines and oranges, are the most commonly consumed fruits. Dry red wine, high in polyphenols, is consumed in small amounts with meals. The diet features lots of herbs and spices, including garlic, parley, cilantro , hot peppers, basis, bay leaf, oregano, rosemary, mint, dill, thyme and spices like turmeric, cloves, ginger, garlic and cinnamon, which are all known and proven to inhibit cancer cell colonies from initiating or proliferating. These vegetables, herbs and spices promote immune health and both Phase I and Phase II detoxification enzymes. A growing body of research indicates that many herbs and spices can help you prevent cancer. Curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric, is a new darling among anticancer researchers and has been proven to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease. Rosemary and ginger are COX-2 inhibitors that block enzymes, preventing cancer cells from growing. Garlic, oregano and basil kill viruses and bacteria. Use raw garlic in salads daily as it helps to prevent cancer.
The Mediterranean diet includes almost 30 percent of the calories as fat. But that is really not high, considering the quality of the fats, which are in the form of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. They get EPA and DHA, omega-3 fats, from eating fish like sardines, anchovies, tuna and salmon. They get omega-9 monounsaturated fat from olive oil, which decreases bad LDL cholesterol and raises good HDL cholesterol. They eat omega-3 and omega-6 fats in avocados, flax seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and the wild salad green purslane. They eat on average 40 grams of fiber daily. The Mediterranean people have developed wonderful stress busters, such as an afternoon nap, eating slowly and savoring their meals, close family ties, joyful ethnic dancing and robust happy singing. Once again, it is interesting to note that the Mediterraneans themselves also average nine hours of sleep a night.