News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Mediterranean diet offers health benefits

After overindulging in too many rich foods, many of us enter January feeling tired, depressed and a few pounds heavier. This year make your health a top priority. Make time for exercise, self-care and cooking healthy meals. It’s an opportunity to recommit to your health and well-being.

If you want to eat better this year, determine how you plan to do so with smaller and sustainable New Year’s goals. For example, you could eat at least two fruits a day, or limit soda intake to only one can a day, or meal prep each week. These smalls goals are easier to stick with and can help you eat better and improve health overall. Every day that you eat healthily you’re improving your health and well-being.

So, if getting healthy is one of your top New Year’s goals, it may be time to re-think your eating habits. While fad diets will come and go, there are a few healthy eating plans that can help get you on the right track.

Plant-based diets can help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity. Even if you haven’t been able to dive into a full meat makeover, start by simply “plantifying” your favorite dishes.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables, and grains — to fill the bulk of your nutritional needs. Add salads, steamed or grilled vegetables, fresh-cut fruit and a handful of nuts to your daily diet in place of fried or sugary snacks and side dishes. Moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and eggs are also central to the Mediterranean diet, as is seafood. In contrast, red meat is eaten only occasionally.

Healthy fats are a mainstay of this diet. Use olive oil as the main source of dietary fat, alongside olives, avocados, and avocado oil. They’re eaten instead of less-healthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, which contribute to heart disease.

This lifestyle could help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease, and decrease the risk of other diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthy eating plans recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to promote health and prevent chronic disease.

Interest in the Mediterranean diet began in the 1960s with the observation that coronary heart disease caused fewer deaths in Mediterranean countries, such as Greece and Italy, than in the U.S. and northern Europe. Subsequent studies found that the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It’s difficult to give the exact nutritional information on the Mediterranean diet. There is no single Mediterranean diet, since a variety of cultures and regions are involved.

Remember to stay hydrated this year by drinking water. It can also help to stave off hunger and prevent symptoms of dehydration, including fatigue and dizziness. While there’s no definitive evidence that eight glasses of water each day is a “magic” number to aim for (and water-rich fruits and veggies, along with tea, coffee and milk, all count toward fluid needs), it’s certainly a reasonable goal.


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