How to embrace this beautiful, simply prepared delicious way of eating.
For me, the Mediterranean diet is true north. It seems reasonable — It’s a guideline and not so restrictive. It’s plant-forward. It’s been lived by many cultures, tested scientifically for goodness, it’s delicious, seasonal and it makes sense to me.
I visited Greece (Santorini) recently and got to experience Greece’s version of the Mediterranean diet (mostly associated with France, Spain and Italy as well as Greece) up close and personal. We ate some beautiful meals, all simply prepared, complex and delicious.
Mediterranean Diet Basics
Here’s how I experienced it, Greek-style.
- Food is fresh, simply prepared and delicious
- Whole foods only
- Olive oil is everywhere + flavorful
- More fish, some poultry and eggs, less red meat (mostly local lamb)
- Mostly fresh fruit for sweetness and dessert
- Seasonal fruits + veggies which create natural variety, especially greens
- Ample use of fresh herbs and spice (a lot of oregano and parsley)
- Beans and legumes in all different ways
- Plentiful nuts and seeds as toppers, dips and inside dishes
- Portions are generally smaller and fiber rich with complex flavors
- Wine flows freely at lunch and dinner
- Cheese and yogurt are all smaller portions, almost condiment status
- Meals are much longer, locals slow down and enjoy the company with a glass of wine
What does the Mediterranean diet mean for your health and wellness?
- Fruits and veggies -> (include lots of greens) Lots of fiber + vitamins + antioxidants
- Fresh herbs -> More plant flavors, less salty flavors
- Wine -> Antioxidants + vitamins
- Fish -> High-quality protein + monounsaturated omega 3 fatty acids
- Olive Oil -> Monounsaturated omega 3 fatty acids
- Long meal times -> Better digestion + better nutrient uptake
- Wine -> More antioxidants
- Beans/Legumes/Nuts/Seeds -> Food interest, lots of flavor, plant-based proteins, fiber
All make for a healthy balanced body vs. an unstable body.
Why is this style so good?
In my opinion, the Greek take on the Mediterranean diet was so good because it was tasty, fiber-rich (so I felt good and satisfied after I ate) and filling, so I just wasn’t hungry for snacking. Honestly, when I travel, I bring snacks in case my blood sugar drops. I didn’t have to break into snacks. The meals provided enough fullness, energy and stability to sustain my hunger. And every meal was interesting and delicious.
What does the research say?
This has been researched a lot. The bottom line is that the Mediterranean diet, for certain, is helpful for avoiding disease and uplifts feelings of well being. The Mediterranean diet has been proven through peer-reviewed research to:
- Maintain stable weight (see my experience above, lots of fullness and balance)
- Promote heart health (all those good fats) especially in women
- Stabilize blood sugar/decrease insulin resistance (not a lot of simple sugar swings)
- Brain health/prevention of cognitive decline — all of those plants and lower red meat intake protects the brain and adds up to lower inflammation and more antioxidants, which is preventative
- Better sleep from the healthy fats in nuts, seeds and fish
- Inflammation reduction — more plant foods (whole grains and veggies) and healthy fats reduce inflammation in the body, which is good for prevention of heart disease and diabetes
- Good gut flora is strengthened by plants and whole grains and contributes to strengthening of the immune system
- Boost mental health — fruits and veggies boost brain function. Fiber regulates blood pressure which is a factor in anxiety and depression. Healthy fats boost mood and lower inflammation. Fiber improves gut health which makes feel-good hormones.
So, what did I eat in Greece?
Here are a few highlights:
Eggs, potatoes, tomato ‘pancake’ with side greens
So many Greek salads
Stuffed grape leaves
Fresh juices + wine (started out ordering more fresh juices, and as the week progressed, and I slowed down, I ordered wine. It was so so good.)
More Greek salads
Fava bean dip
It was delightful to live the Greek cuisine/Med diet. I LOVED it, and didn’t come home feeling bloated, heavier or digestively unhappy at all, which is a true testament to its healthful guidelines.
For more info on feeling your best through smarter food choices, contact our holistic nutritionists. It’s a personal puzzle, but we can assist in figuring out what’s best for your body.
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Hi! I’m Robin, the founder of Healthy Nest Nutrition. I am a board-certified holistic nutritionist in Denver, Colorado. My passion is helping people find the right diet for their bodies and then showing them how to make healthy nutrition doable and delicious!