We may not have the weather to match, but May is International Mediterranean Diet Month and a great opportunity to put some heart-healthy ‘sunshine’ into your diet. Recent findings from the Spanish Predimed study have added yet more evidence of the general and heart health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, especially when supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts. What’s more, unlike many diets, the Mediterranean one is easier to stick to as it’s very tasty and satisfying.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is based on an abundance of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, legumes, fish and nuts. Dairy products are eaten in moderation and red meat and meat products only occasionally. This diet provides high levels of mono-unsaturated and omega 3 fats, antioxidants, fibre and other nutrients and is linked to healthier cholesterol levels and a lower risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers.
This May, give your whole family a Mediterranean flavour on their plates:
- Use extra-virgin olive oil for dressing salads and gentle frying or roasting those peppers, aubergines, courgettes, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Eat more colourful and varied salads – try different combinations of lettuces (gem, lollo rosso etc.) chicory, spinach, rocket, vine-grown tomatoes, beetroot, beans (kidney, green, black-eyed), chickpeas and avocados. Add a crunchy topping of nuts and dried fruit. You can also use couscous, bulgur wheat, brown rice or pasta as a base for a salad.
- Get fishy – oily fish and shellfish are a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats as well as protein, vitamins and minerals. Grilled sardines, tinned salmon sandwiches, a seafood risotto, BBQ’d tuna steaks, smoked mackerel salad – there are plenty of mouth-watering ways to add a Mediterranean touch to your lunches and evening meals.
- Cut back on red meat, choosing chicken, fish, pulses, eggs, yoghurt and small amounts of cheese for your dishes instead.
- Go nuts - make walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashew, pistachio and other unsalted nuts your new snack and sprinkle them on your breakfast cereal or yoghurt, not just your salads.
- Drink plenty of water. Wine does feature in the Mediterranean diet but in moderation; it’s high in calories and men should not regularly exceed 3-4 units a day (large glass of wine) and for women it’s 2-3 units (a medium glass of wine). Red wine is a good source of antioxidants, but then so is 100% grape juice.
Get on the road to heart health by going the Mediterranean way, this month and beyond. Get your taste buds tingling for the taste of Mediterranean recipes to help add years to your life and life to your years.