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'Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine'

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

STUDENT CONTRIBUTOR: Kalliopi (Kelly) Kyrani | Nutrition & Food, Ryerson University

A Close-Up look at the evolution of the Mediterranean Diet!

The first signs of the Mediterranean diet were found in the 1960s with the observation that deaths from coronary heart disease were significantly low in Mediterranean countries; mainly in Greece, Italy and Spain, as compared to the U.S. and northern Europe. The Mediterranean Diet is characterized by the eating habits and traditional cuisines of these countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.

Recognized as one of the healthiest diets globally….

The Mediterranean Diet is considered one of the healthiest eating plans recommended not only by Registered Dietitians across the country, but also by key players in healthcare like Diabetes Canada, the Heart & Stroke Foundation to prevent chronic disease. The latest revision of the Canada Food Guide is modelled after the Mediterranean Diet. The World Health Organization recognizes the Mediterranean Diet as a nutritious and sustainable diet. The United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization spotlights this eating pattern as an intangible cultural asset.

What are the main elements of the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is typically rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. More specifically the main components of this diet include:

  • Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats

  • Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs

  • Moderate portions of dairy products

  • Limited intake of red meat

Other important elements of the Mediterranean diet are sharing meals with family and friends, enjoying a glass of red wine and being physically active on a daily basis.

Get started and eat the Mediterranean way!

Here are some tips...

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fill half your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables to get the benefit of all the essential vitamins and minerals they provide. Fruits and vegetables also provide fibre which helps to stabilize blood sugars, keep you feeling satisfied longer, reduce cravings and support weight management.

  • Choose whole grains. Switch to whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas. Try incorporating new and different ancient grains into recipes like bulgur and farro.

  • Consume healthy fats. Use olive oil as a replacement for butter or margarine when cooking. Enjoy a serving of fatty fish (e.g., salmon) at least twice a week. Try having nuts and seeds as part of your meals or snacks more often. Mix nuts in with oats, yogurt or salads - or just have a handful for a snack.

  • Eat more seafood. Include choices of fatty fish twice a week (e.g., salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring). Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring. Grilled or BBQ'd fish is a healthier choice and tastes still good without requiring a lot of cleaning up. Limit or avoid deep-fried or battered fish.

  • Reduce red meat. Substitute fish, poultry or beans for meat as alternative sources of protein. If you eat meat, make sure it's lean, keep portions small and limit red meats to once or twice a week.

  • Enjoy some dairy. Choose low-fat Greek or plain yogurts mixed with whole fruits like berries to add flavour and fibre while reducing your sugar intake. Small amounts of a variety of cheeses paired with whole wheat crackers is a good way to introduce dairy to your daily routine. Of course, a good, old fashioned glass of milk is nutritious, too.

  • Choose spices for your food. Herbs and spices help to keep your recipes tasting delicious, boosts flavour and reduced the need for added salt. Many herbs and spices provide antioxidant benefit, as well, like cloves, cinnamon, thyme or sage.

Eat 'Medi'... Stay Healthy!

Studies have found that the Mediterranean Diet is associated with reduced risk for a variety of chronic diseases; including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. This diet may also help the body maintain healthy cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of high blood pressure and boost your brain health! Too many benefits not to consider adopting this dietary lifestyle!

Did you know?

  1. The original Mediterranean Diet is the Cretan diet. Crete is the largest island of Greece and it is the fifth largest island overall in the Mediterranean Sea. Cretan cuisine is renowned both in Greece and internationally for its unique ingredients, flavors, and local produce. These include mountain herbs and greens, bulbs, unique cheeses, fresh fish, the famous Cretan oil, and raki a bracing grape brandy.

  2. North America has 30 times greater rates of heart disease than Crete, Greece.

  3. The Mediterranean diet became of more international interest in modern times as early as 1945. A medical doctor named Ancel Keys was encouraging his own patients in the United States to turn to the Mediterranean diet.

Interested in trying the Mediterranean diet? We welcome you to book a session with our Registered Dietitian who can help you achieve your dietary goals!

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