The Mediterranean Diet is in the news again this week after a study showed that 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and death could be prevented in high-risk patients if they followed the diet.
I’m following a modified version of this diet and while I’m not high risk, it’s made a huge difference in my overall health. I don’t even consider it a diet. I cook with olive oil, drink a moderate amount of wine, rarely eat red meat, try to have vegetables a couple times a day, and snack on fruit and nuts. The key is that it’s real food and it tastes good.
The Mediterranean diet also works because it’s not a fad. It’s the way healthy people have eaten for centuries. The 5-year study released by the New England Journal of Medicine this week followed two groups of Spaniards. One went on the Mediterranean diet that consisted of 4 tablespoons of olive oil a day (heaven) or a handful of nuts. They ate fish, drank a glass of wine every day and ate legumes (beans, peas and lentils), fruits, and vegetables. The other group that was studied went on a low fat diet and did not do as well. They had no vegetable oil or nuts at all and ate only lean meats. They were also told to avoid packaged sweets. Not only did they not do as well, they didn’t stay on it.
I can understand why. I’ve tried different ways of eating including the Engine 2 Diet. Engine 2 is a plant-based diet, which I can totally get behind, but it’s also vegan with no oils and no sugar whatsoever. I know that people love it, but after the 28 days I was thrilled to have a piece of salmon drizzled with olive oil. There is something about fat that is so satisfying.
On the far other side of the spectrum, I’ve also tried The Paleo Diet, which is basically all meat all the time. Well, that’s not entirely true. The diet consists of food that the cavemen would have eaten meat, vegetables, fruit. There is not a lot of carbohydrates in this diet. While I felt very lean when I was doing it, I couldn’t stop thinking about cake.
Now, I’m on the most reasonable non-diet I’ve ever been on and it’s fanstatic. I’ve been working with Celebrity Dietician Ashley Koff since September and she has encouraged me to be a “Qualitarian,” which means to eat only good quality food. That doesn’t mean expensive, it just means that it would be better to have an apple or a handful of almonds than a 100 calorie bag of low fat cookies. It’s always better to pick real food.
Eating real food that tastes good and is healthy is something that I model for my kids, too. It took a while, but my 9-year-old now loves salmon cooked in garlic, olive oil, and lemon with broccoli. For me, eating a modified Mediterranean Diet had an impact on my cholesterol (it’s fantastic) and my fitness level. I did the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in January 28 minutes faster than the year before.
Real food. Good food. It works.
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