May is Med month and the perfect time to start eating fresher before the summer months. Cooperative Extension’s new Med Instead of Meds program takes you through a six-session journey to start eating a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. The Mediterranean diet is the healthiest style of eating, backed by research, and actually one of the tastiest!
The Mediterranean-style eating pattern incorporates the basics of healthy eating that were traditionally practiced in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. This eating pattern is based on how people historically ate in the Mediterranean region, and not necessarily reflective of how people in the Mediterranean currently eat. For instance, Greece and Italy are both Mediterranean countries, but they are not always consistent with eating the Med Way. Spaghetti, meat kabobs and pizza are high in white flour, red meat and cheese, contributing to high calories and saturated fat.
So why choose the Med diet? Strong evidence supports the Med Way of eating as a healthy eating pattern that promotes health and decreases the risk of many chronic diseases. Eating the Med Way decreases the risk of some forms of cancer, specifically colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. The Med Way also protects against cognitive decline and can lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 40 percent. Eating the Med Way may improve eye health, including decreasing the risk of macular degeneration as well as decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. One study found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was cut in half (52 percent decrease) by eating the Med Way.
Med is good for your heart. It can help manage blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30-60 percent. One study found that consuming nine or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day resulted in a 60 percent reduction in CVD.
Despite being a high-fat diet, the Med diet is better than a low-fat diet for weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. For those concerned about gaining weight from increased healthy fat intake, research has found that a higher-fat Med diet, up to 42 percent total fat, does not lead to weight gain. The notion that we need to eat low-fat to achieve a healthy weight needs to be abandoned.
There are six steps to adopting a Mediterranean-style eating pattern:
1. Change your protein — Replace some of the meat of your diet with plant proteins such as beans, nuts, and seeds often and consume fish two to three times per week.
2. Swap your fats — replace solid fats such as butter or margarine with olive oil or canola oil.
3. Eat more vegetables — get at least three servings of vegetables per day choosing dark green leafy vegetables.
4. Eat more fruit — Get at least two servings of fruits per day and eat berries often.
5. Snack on nuts and seeds — Choose at least three ounces of nuts and seeds per week within a calorie budget.
6. Make your grains whole — eat grains as grains and look for “whole” in the first ingredient on the ingredient list.
7. Rethink your sweets — limit sugar intake and choose no more than three servings per week of high-sugared foods and drinks.
The Med diet makes eating healthy easy and delicious. Visit www.medinsteadofmeds.com for more information and dozens of delicious recipes.
The Richmond County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, health, wellness and nutrition, please contact me at 910-997-8255.
Janice Roberts is the family and consumer sciences agent for the Richmond County Cooperative Extension.