How You Can Enjoy the Healthiest Diet in the World: the Mediterranean Diet

  May 8, 2015  |    Blog

By now you know that we are all about basing a diet around healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, lean protein, seafood and delicious herbs and spices.  So when our dear friend and colleague, nutritionist extraordinaire and sports nutritionist to the Atlanta Hawks, Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD shared this awesome blog with us about the incredible benefits of the Mediterranean diet, we felt compelled to share it with you.  Reading this serves as more motivation for us all to eat a healthy diet!

 

Several decades ago scientists were stunned by lower rates of heart disease in Italy, Spain and other Northern European countries. When searching for an explanation, they stumbled upon a diet full of plant-based foods and seafood cooked very simply using olive oil as well as herbs and spices for flavor. In addition to vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, spices, herbs, olive oil and seafood, the Mediterranean diet includes wine in moderation at mealtime. Red meat, chicken and processed meats are consumed in much smaller quantities while desserts, eggs, sauces, gravies and butter are rarely eaten.

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What’s the secret to this eating pattern? The foods included in the Mediterranean diet are naturally rich sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy plant-based compounds. The higher fat foods, including olive oil, nuts and seeds, are sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which support heart health. Red wine has also been associated with heart health. However, you don’t need to drink alcohol to benefit from some of the compounds found in wine. Dark purple Concord grapes deliver many of the same polyphenols found in red wine. And, not only do polyphenols, specifically flavonoids, give Concord grapes their vibrant purple color, many of these plant nutrients also deliver benefits to help promote health, including heart health. Because Concord grapes have a very short growing season and are so delicate that they don’t travel very well, the best way to enjoy them year-round is by drinking or cooking with Welch’s 100% Grape Juice. Welch’s uses the entire Concord grape: skin, pulp, seed and all – and presses it into juice, extracting as much of the grape goodness as possible. If you are looking for a little inspiration, check out this Mediterranean-style dish, which includes quinoa, a protein-packed ancient grain (it is actually a seed); 100% grape juice, feta cheese for a tangy pop of flavor; olives; and fiber- and protein-rich chickpeas and walnuts.

Though many diets come and go, the Mediterranean diet continues to gain ground as one of the healthiest diets in the world. Nuts, good quality extra virgin olive oil, fish, vegetables and fruit are Mediterranean diet staples that everyone should consider eating for heart health. And finally, consider not just what people in the Mediterranean eat but also how they eat it. They make mealtime an experience by sitting down with friends and family, eating slowly, enjoying delicious food and sipping their drinks. After all, changing what we eat and how we eat it may not only help us live a little longer but also enrich our lives as well.

Marie Spano is a Welch’s advisory panel member.
References
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Epidemiology. 2013 Jul;24(4):479-89. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3182944410.
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Salas-Salvadó J, Fernández-Ballart J, Ros E, et al. Effect of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts on metabolic syndrome status: one-year results of the PREDIMED randomized trial. Arch Intern Med 2008;168(22):2449-58.

Bes-Rastrollo M, Sabaté J, Gómez-Gracia E, Alonso A, Martínez JA, Martínez-González MA. Nut consumption and weight gain in a Mediterranean cohort: The SUN study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007;15(1):107-16.

Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J et al. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. New Engl J Med 2013;368:1279-1290.

Willett WC. The Mediterranean diet: science and practice. Public Health Nutr 2006;9(1A):105-10.

Esposito K, Marfella R, Citola M et al. Effect of a Mediterranean-style diet on endothelial dysfunction and markers of vascular inflammation in the metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial. JAMA 2004;292:1440-6.

Ibarrola-Jurado N, Bullo M, Guasch-Ferre M et al. Cross-sectional assessment of nut consumption and obesity, metabolic syndrome and other cardiometabolic risk factors: the PREDIMED study. PLOS ONE 2013 Feb 17. [Epub ahead of print]

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