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Mediterranean diet

Dear Residents, we continue the series of articles on healthy nutrition that are posted on our blog additionally to free nutrition workshops that are organized for our residents every other week. This week’s topic is a Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is a way of life, more so than a style of eating. This type of lifestyle gained traction because certain mediterranean populations live to older ages when compared to other populations around the world. Not only do these populations live longer, but they also live healthier lives. It is inspired by the seven Mediterranean region countries: France, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus.

The seven principles of a mediterranean lifestyle include eating healthy, spending time
with friends and family, finding time to relax, laughing often, being productive, staying physically active, and enjoying the simple things in life such as reading a book under a tree. Being mindful of our health means being conscientious about what we feed our bodies and the thoughts we process into our minds. We can aim for including these practices into our daily routine, even if it is implementing one at a time.

The diet component of the Mediterranean lifestyle is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits which are recognized for helping decrease the risk of chronic diseases and help prevent cognitive decline. It includes:

– Everyday Base; each meal around these foods: vegetables, fruits, whole wheat grains,
olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes and seeds, herbs and spices
– Often: at least twice each week: fish and seafood
– Weekly: Moderate portions: Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt
– Less often: Meats and sweets

Olive oil is a strong component of the Mediterranean diet for its antioxidant properties that help combat cell damage caused by stress in the body and can help aid in its regeneration. Ideas for using olive oil with meals include drizzling it over your salad or mixing it into salad dressing, using it as an alternative for butter, and mixing it into soups. Often meals are accompanied with a glass of red wine. Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant found in red wine that can help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Food practices emphasize whole food items that are less processed, no unhealthy snacks such as chips or candy, that the main meal is eaten during the middle of the day around 2:00pm, small portioned meat servings with your meal, vegetables and olive oil in every meal, and fruit as dessert.

The Mediterranean eating pattern practices mindful eating. Mindful eating is the application of following an in-the-moment awareness of the food you put into your body and paying close attention to how the food makes you feel. Because we live in a busy place like New York City where for many of us, eating has become a mindless act, often done quickly. This can present a problem since it can take your body up to 20 minutes to process that you feel full. Ways to practice mindful eating in a Mediterranean diet are no eating/snacking in front of the screen or other distractions, having meals together with family/friends at dinner time, chewing food thoroughly, having smaller plates, taking naps after meals, and lots of walking.

A big part of the Mediterranean lifestyle is having an active life. Staying active helps us become more productive and helps build a stronger sense of purpose into our life. When we are staying active, our metabolism also works more efficiently. Not only does staying active improve food metabolism but it can also have other positive effects such as strengthening bones and muscles, boosting energy levels, and improving mood. Some fun ways to stay active can be as simple as dancing to your favorite music , taking the stairs, and riding a bike. Lastly, filling our lives with healthy habits means putting them into daily practice. Just like training for a marathon takes patience and practice, it goes the same for developing a healthy lifestyle. In doing so, we can allow ourselves to live our best and most optimal life.