Mediterranean Diet: The World's Healthiest Diet?

By Rachel Johnson, Ph.D, M.P.H., R.D., "The World's Healthiest Diet?," September/October 2008

Research shows that eating like a Mediterranean is good for your waist as well as your heart.

"'Eating Mediterranean' doesn't necessarily mean flavoring everything with rosemary and covering it in tomato sauce. As long as the basics are there (lots of legumes, vegetables and whole grains, limited meat, healthy fats, fish), you can...

Another study by Spanish researchers reports that people who adhered most closely to Mediterranean Diet principles reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 83 percent, compared with those who didn’t. We also know the diet reduces inflammation, a risk factor for heart­attack and stroke, and may even ward off depression and lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

But while studies continue to support this eating pattern, the traditional lifestyle on the shores of the Mediterranean is regrettably losing ground. Inactivity is increasing and obesity is on the rise. Longer work hours leave less time to shop and cook, while a shift toward more sedentary lifestyles means more sitting in front of the computer screen than working in the fields.

Recognizing this, here are four tenets of the Mediterranean Diet for people with 21st-century lives.

1. Stock your pantry and cook at home. Do your best to cook more and use whole, unprocessed ingredients so you can control portion sizes, salt and calories. “We can’t ask people to make everything from scratch,” says Oldways dietitian Nicki Heverling, M.S., R.D. Instead, she suggests stocking your pantry and freezer with Mediterranean-inspired staples like canned tomatoes, olives, whole-wheat pasta and frozen vegetables.

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