9 Key Elements of a Healthy Mediterranean Diet

If you are looking for a healthier way to eat, you may want to adopt the heart-healthy Mediterranean eating plan, based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking. This plan incorporates the basics of healthy eating - with an added dash of olive oil and a sip of red wine - among other elements of the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, an analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson and Alzheimer's diseases.

Key elements of eating Mediterranean

The Mediterranean eating plan includes the following elements:

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables. Eat five or more servings to get the antioxidants and fiber benefits. Try grilling your fruits and vegetables to serve with your meat and chicken. Keep baby carrots, apples and bananas on hand for quick, satisfying snacks. Fruit salads are a wonderful way to eat a variety of healthy fruit.
  • Fish several times a week. Certain fish such as salmon, trout and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids and proteins, which are beneficial to heart health.
  • Olive oil. Virgin or extra-virgin olive oils are the least processed oils and have more antioxidants. Try using olive oil mixed with balsamic oil for salad dressing and marinades.
  • Nuts. Nuts and seeds are good sources of fiber, protein and healthy fats. Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter, rather than one with hydrogenated fat added.
  • Red wine in moderation. No more than one five-ounce glass of wine daily for women (or men over age 65) and no more than two five-ounce glasses of wine daily for men under age 65 are recommended.
  • Avoid red meat. Try substituting chicken or fish for red meat when possible. Lean red meat is OK to eat.
  • Whole grain bread and pasta. Choose whole grain breads and pastas for the health benefits.
  • Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and can stand in for salt and fat in recipes.
  • Choose low-fat dairy. Limit higher-fat dairy products, such as whole or 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.

Along with healthy eating, remember to stay physically active and enjoy meals with family and friends.

Taking care of yourself and your family by making healthier choices is a focal point of the Healthy Base Initiative, part of Operation Live Well, which supports the National Prevention Strategy for improving Americans' health and well-being through a prevention-oriented approach. For more information for making healthy choices, visit the Healthy Base Initiative page on Military OneSource or call 800-342-9647 to speak with a Military OneSource Health and Wellness coach.


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