Jonathan Kantor/Getty Images
Navigating the Mediterranean diet
Its relatively easy to adopt a Mediterranean-style diet. You probably eat at least some of the key foods already. But keep in mind: though the diet has been heavily promoted in recent years by the olive oil industry and some food companies that stand to benefit, its hardly the only healthful world cuisine. Consider the Japanese, who consume little if any olive oil or red wine yet have the longest life expectancy in the world. What healthy diets around the planet have in commonand what we have long recommendedis a heavy emphasis on plant foods. And it doesnt matter which vegetables, beans, fruits, or grains you choose or how you serve them.
Heres our way to go Mediterranean, in seven simple steps:
• Center your meals around vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and lentils). Eat fruit as snacks and/or for dessert; snack on nuts and seeds. Seek variety and minimal processing to get the most nutrients. Eat sweets sparingly.
• Eat fish at least twice a week, poultry (skinless white meat is best), and eggs (limit egg yolks to a few a week if you have high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes). Limit red meat to small portions, no more than a few times a month.
• Use vegetable oilsincluding olive, canola, flaxseed, safflower, peanut, and sesamein place of (not in addition to) butter and margarine. If you use olive oil, choose extra virgin or virgin, which retain more healthful compounds.
• Eat dairy foods, such as yogurt, daily if you like them. Choose low-fat or nonfat versionsor keep portions, especially of cheese, small. Milk is not a mainstay of the traditional Mediterranean diet but is a good dairy food, too.
• If youre watching your weight, eat smaller portions of high-calorie foods.
• Enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, if you like it (and are not avoiding alcohol for health or personal reasons). Other alcoholic beverages are also beneficial, but moderation is the key: no more than two drinks a day for men, one drink for women.
• Be active every day.