The Mediterranean Diet

By Julie Wiekamp, MPAS, PA-C

Fad diets are everywhere. You can’t turn on the TV, flip through a magazine or even have a friendly conversation without hearing about the “latest and greatest” way to lose weight. From fasting to gluten free, the marketplace is full of messages on what we “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. So what exactly is a “good diet?” A good diet plan needs to be specialized to an individual with regard to not only their medical conditions, but also their cultural practices. A good diet plan should be one that you can follow indefinitely with an emphasis on healthy food choices over a lifetime. The Mediterranean diet is a wonderful example of a time tested diet plan that can be easily adjusted. The Mediterranean diet is known to decrease cardiovascular mortality and has also been linked to better Type 2 Diabetes outcomes and certain types of cancer prevention.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables. A strong base of fresh fruits and vegetables provides the body with a boost of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Fresh produce retains more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. So, whenever possible, seek out the fresh options. Frozen vegetables are usually second best.

Whole grains are consumed within the Mediterranean diet. Rid your diet of processed, white bread. Instead, seek out whole grain choices high in fiber.

Olive oil is the primary fat consumed. Very little saturated fat(animal fat) is eaten. Instead, meals are prepared and flavored with olive oil. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, useful in lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Bear in mind, any oil is high in calories. So, olive oil, like any fat, should be consumed in moderation.

The amount and type of meat consumed in the Mediterranean diet is often very different than the average Nebraskan diet. Fatty fish, such as salmon, is readily consumed. Salmon provides benefits for both the brain and the heart, as it is high in omega 3 fatty acids. Admittedly, finding good fish in Nebraska may prove challenging. But, numerous grocery stores are offering a wider variety of fresh and frozen fish in the area. Poultry is consumed a few times per week. Finally, red meats are consumed in smaller quantities and less frequently.

Low fat dairy is a useful way to increase your protein and keep your cholesterol in check. Search for low fat cheeses, skim milks, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese.

Instead of reaching for the salt, reach for herbs and spices. This practice will give your foods more flavor and keep your blood pressures in check.

No diet plan is right for all. However, following the Mediterranean diet may be easily used by most individuals and families. It is not a step by step meal plan, but instead a framework for viewing food and choosing healthy options that work for you and your household.

To see a copy of the Mediterranean diet pyramid: