Key Principles of the Mediterranean Diet
The top five healthiest nations in the world are Spain, Italy, Iceland, Japan, Switzerland, and Sweden. That’s according to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which looks at factors such as life expectancy, activity levels and living conditions in 169 nations. To put things into perspective, the U.S. ranked 35th, but there is still room for improvement.
Following a Mediterranean-style diet helped land Spain and Italy in first, and second place, respectively. This eating plan emphasizes the consumption of a primarily plant-based diet, with a minimum of two servings of foods high in omega-3s, along with healthy fats such as olive oil and avocados thrown in for good measure. Compared to other diets, this plan is easy to follow, almost nothing is off limits, and has research-proven health benefits.
In 2018, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in which 7,447 participants were split into three groups: A Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin online oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, and a control group. The study found that participants who adhered to this eating plan had lesser incidence of major cardiac events when compared to a reduced-fat diet (control).
The Mediterranean diet has also been shown to improve gut microbiome, promote brain health, prevent diabetes, decrease bad cholesterol, help with weight loss, and reduce a variety of other health conditions. It was recently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the “#1 Best Overall Diet.” In the same report, it was also ranked “#1 Easiest Diet to Follow,” which makes it sustainable long-term.
Here are the three basic principles of the Mediterranean diet:
Make Wise Food Choices
Eating the Mediterranean way starts with choosing the right ingredients. Next time you’re at Phoenix area organic grocery stores, shop the perimeter of the store first, loading up on seasonal produce. Choose a wide variety of vegetables and fruits for their nutrients and phytonutrients. This diet also encourages the consumption of whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, olives, and lean protein. Food such as dairy, meat and sweets are even allowed, if they’re eaten in moderation. Red wine is also okay.
Find Exercise You Love
People in Mediterranean countries walk or bike … everywhere. This is because they know that daily exercise contributes to overall health, which unsurprisingly, means it is strongly encouraged. You don’t necessarily have to walk or bike; any form of joyful movement will suffice. Pursue an activity that you love and that you can see yourself sticking with long-term. Some ideas include hiking, kayaking, strength training, yoga, and Pilates. Another great idea is to take up a sport (e.g., volleyball, tennis, etc.).
Every meal is an opportunity to socialize. That doesn’t mean on your phone! Leave your devices in another room, turn off the television, and just enjoy being surrounded by your friends and family as you savor the flavors of the Mediterranean. Eating with family and friends can also foster stronger relationships and greater happiness. Use dinnertime to sit down and catch up.
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