Health & Nutrition

May 24, 2011

Mediterranean Diet – is it the way to go?

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My continental breakfast included two pieces of whole grain bread, fruit, and yogurt with a drizzle of honey. Surprisingly filling and satisfying!

To me the continental breakfast has always been a joke.  It never seems to be enough. A few croissants, jam, fruit, milk and coffee?  Where’s the protein?  It turns out everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a continental breakfast. Some places offer a “light” version while others offer a “full”.  A light is often just pastries and coffee, whereas a full includes eggs, cereal and yogurt.   Despite these differences the basics include:

  • coffee,
  • milk,
  • bread,
  • jam, and
  • fruit.

These are meant to provide a light meal that tides one over until lunch, and is loosely based on mediterranean traditions.

May is Mediterranean Diet Month

Oldways believes the mediterranean diet is a healthy way to eat and drink with a distinct difference: their food pyramid.

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid (Courtesy of Oldways,

The pyramid has activity and fitness as the foundation to health!  Opa! The next level of the pyramid focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as the basis for every meal.   Water and wine are outside the pyramid and meats and sweets are at the tip (small portions, less often).

What makes this pyramid popular and recommended for good health?
The Mediterranean Diet is often referred to as the gold standard and recommended by the Harvard School of Public Health. It is called a “heart healthy diet option” by, and “…a recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.”

The diet replaces butter with olive oil or canola oil. Olive and Canola oils contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that contain Omega-3 fatty acids. Our body cannot make these so we must obtain them from our diet.  Omega-3’s help lower LDL and according to WebMD “…have been shown to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, blood clots, hypertension, and strokes;

The other main focus of the pyramid: fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are rich in antioxidants and fiber! Fiber is important for managing weight. Fiber helps you feel full and takes longer to digest.  And WebMD states, “Tufts University researcher and professor of nutrition Susan Roberts, PhD, has shown that people who eat 35 to 45 grams of fiber a day are less hungry when losing weight and lose more weight than people who eat less fiber.”

Just be careful of consuming fiber in bulk because it can also suck important nutrients and vitamins on the way out.

Another benefit of the Mediterranean diet may include longevity. Old Ways states that following the diet is associated with improved health and reduced mortality rates.

My grandfather lived to the grand age of 99, only a few months shy of celebrating 100.  He was a farmer and spent most of his days outside (activity).  I remember morning breakfasts of mush, aka oatmeal, with a little brown sugar and black coffee (continental breakfast?!?). Lunches were almost always a fish soup with vegetables and rice.  Dinners also had rice, a vegetable and lean meat (grain based meals).  Go figure Grandpa had it right and those breakfasts on the farm were my early introductions to eating a continental breakfast.

So I guess it isn’t the continental breakfast that’s a joke. It is the “light” version filled with sweet pastries offering no nutritive value that I dislike.  I should listen to Grandpa and maybe I, too, will live to be 99 and hopefully beyond!

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4 thoughts on “Mediterranean Diet – is it the way to go?

  1. I like the breakfast many Spaniards eat; toasted whole grain bread spread with garlic and tomato pulp, followed with coffee.

  2. My father has had three heart attacks and his doctor said that the best diet was the Mediterranean Diet for him and for anyone who wants to really watch their health.

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