Whole natural foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, form the basis of the Mediterranean Diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which we need in our daily diet. Consider color when selecting a healthy variety of fruits and vegetables. Not only does food of different colors create exciting meals, they often correspond to differing pools of specific nutrients and antioxidants critical to a healthy life.
Whole grain cereals are nutritional too with the added benefits of providing the complex carbohydrates our bodies need to produce energy and stamina.
Not all fats are bad. Some types of fats are even needed in a healthy diet. Extra virgin olive oil is a fundamental ingredient in the Mediterranean tradition. Not only does extra virgin olive oil help liven up the flavors in foods and spices but its high content of Monounsaturated fatty acids is an important source of healthy lipids in the diet, which are important to the makeup of the building blocks in the structure and functioning of living cells in your body.
Foods of animal origin (meats, fish, eggs and diary) are valuable sources of protein in a healthy diet when consumed sparingly. It also helps to vary the animal sources of these ingredients throughout the week. Legumes are a great source of protein too. Because they are low in bad fats and high in many needed nutrients, legumes should be included as a regular part of your daily diet. Also, substitute legumes for animal products as a source of protein every week, and be sure to include whole grain cereals in your meals.
The Mediterranean tradition encourages a nutritional balance on every plate. Each plate has a proper proportion of vitamins and nutrients, proteins and complex carbohydrates from a variety of sources. The Mediterranean plate is an excellent example of how the nutritional value of foods compliments each other, just like the flavors, colors and aromas combine creating lively experiences and healthy relationships.
What is special and unique to the Mediterranean Diet is it provides a structure for people to create their own personal experiences and relationship with food, and it invites a community around the table. With the use of staple and exotic herbs, spices and flavors, we can all live a flavorful life while reducing the unhealthy use of salt, fats, sugars and empty carbohydrates in our diet.
Don’t forget the wine. Enjoy one or two glasses with your evening meal and with your friends. Include hard-shell fruits as occasional snacks for the nutrients, essential fatty acids and to control unhealthy appetites. The heart healthy and anti-aging benefits of wine, hard-shell fruits and laughter among family and friends around the table are good for the soul.
Valeria del Balzo
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