10 tips to eat the Mediterranean way

10 October 2017

Research shows that a Mediterranean diet can protect against metabolic syndrome, helps prevent and control diabetes, may reverse fatty liver disease, and possibly slash the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The more closely you adhere to this diet, the stronger your protection from these health issues will be.

So, what constitutes a Mediterranean diet? Health Sciences PhD researcher Sue Radd lists 10 ways you can incorporate this prevention-style diet into your daily routine:

1. Olive oil daily

Ditch the margarine and vegetable oils. Enjoy large portions of extra virgin olive oil on your salads and in your cooking as this good oil uniquely provides high amounts of polyphenols. Polyphenols are natural compounds that we get through certain plant-based foods. They provide beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to protect your health. Olive oil also enhances the absorption of antioxidants from other foods into the body and makes eating lots of vegetables easy to do!

2. Legumes at least twice weekly

You should get a good serving of beans, such as chickpeas or lentils, to reduce saturated fat and increase your fibre intake. Legumes protect against multiple chronic diseases and are a great alternative to meat.

3. Meat in very small amounts

Research shows that people who eat red meat are at an increased risk of early death from heart disease, stroke or diabetes.Limit your meat intake to small amounts monthly, and where possible, replace meat with legumes.

4. Vegetables every day

Include a half cup of tomatoes and a half cup of leafy greens, plus at least 2 cups of other coloured vegetables. Vegetables provide a myriad of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients for good health. Made into a delicious stew or baked dish, they were often consumed as the main course, not the side, in traditional Mediterranean diets.

5. Go wholegrain

Intact, cracked or coarsely milled flours and their products - think dark, dense, grainy bread - were staple foods in Greece. Dietary fibre from wholegrainsand other plant foods, may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

6. Seasoning is key

Incorporate onion, garlic, herbs and spices whenever possible - not only will they make your food taste great, they amplify the antioxidants delivered to your plate, even when used in small amounts.

7. No day without fresh fruit

Fruit is the perfect snack. Unlike cakes and biscuits, it is a whole food, packed with fibre and phytonutrients - not just a source of sugar. Eaten at the end of a meal, as was done traditionally, fruit may help dampen the inflammation that can occur in the lining of your blood vessels following a meal. Limit refined sweets and sugary drinks to special occasions and small amounts.

8. Snack on nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds contain healthful mono and polyunsaturated fats, as well as minerals and multiple phytonutrients. They help lower high cholesterol levels and a Mediterranean diet including daily nuts has been shown to protect against having a first heart attack and stroke!

9. Dairy in moderation

Dairy was enjoyed in moderation in the traditional Mediterranean diet - about two serves per day - and mainly eaten by adults as a fermented food, such as yoghurt and soft white cheese, e.g. ricotta, fetta. Milk was reserved for children and the elderly. Avoid high intakes of any animal products, including dairy, and prefer choices such as plain/natural yoghurt.

10. Drink water

Humans are made up of 70 percent water, and our blood is 90 percent water. Water should be consumed daily as your main source of hydration. Aim for at least five cups per day (1.25 litres) of pure water in addition to other drinks. To function properly, all the cells and organs of the body need water. It is also used to lubricate the joints, protect the spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, regulate body temperature, and assist the passage of food through the intestines.

Hear Sue Radd's talk from Raising the Bar

Listen to Sue's talk on 'Could the Mediterranean diet affect dementia?' from Raising the Bar 2017. Listen now