Sail into the Mediterranean diet

Sail into the Mediterranean diet

Fad diets are trendy weight-loss plans that promise dramatic results. Typically, these diets are not healthy and don't result in long-term weight loss, and some can actually be dangerous to your health. Nutrition professionals recommend avoiding short-term fad diets and focusing on a healthy eating lifestyle.

A key indicator when evaluating a diet is to look at the demographics and lifestyles of those who adhere to it. One healthy option is the Mediterranean diet, a way of eating based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Typically you’ll see fish as a protein staple.

Plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, herbs and spices are the foundation, along with an abundance of healthy fats though nuts, seeds and olive oil.

The Mediterranean diet focuses more on an eating pattern than a strictly regimented (and usually restrictive) diet plan. The food choices are based on the dietary traditions of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the mid-20th century, when these countries had low rates of chronic disease and higher-than-average adult life expectancy despite limited access to health care and Westernized medicine. Experts believe their diet contributed to their good health. It also emphasized the benefits of daily physical activity and social aspects of eating meals together.

If you have or are at risk of a chronic condition like heart disease, hypertension or diabetes, ask your physician if the Mediterranean diet might be right for you. It is often promoted by health professionals to decrease the risk of heart disease, depression and dementia.

Olive oil is the primary source of added fats in the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Nuts and seeds also contain monounsaturated fats for heart health. Fatty fish (mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation in the body. These also help decrease triglycerides, reduce blood clotting, and lower the risk of stroke and heart failure.

How to get started
• Start planning meals around vegetables, beans and whole grains.
• Eat fatty fish at least twice a week.
• Use olive oil (low heat) and avocado oil
(high heat) instead of butter or vegetable oils in preparing food.
• Serve fresh fruit for dessert – the more colorful, the better.
• Wine can be included, but only in moderation.
• Strive to be physically active and share meals with loved ones.

Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District.