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Published on June 21, 2022

common foods in mediterranean diet

Why a Mediterranean Diet Is Worth Trying

The long-respected Mediterranean diet has been around for centuries, popular in media for more than a decade and studied extensively.

Scientists have found it provides a wealth of benefits, such as weight loss, prevention of heart disease and fighting inflammation in the body. It’s more than just a set of foods or recipes – it’s an approach that involves more plant-based foods, healthier fats and cooking at home.

“It’s best to consider changes in lifestyle, and Mediterranean cuisine can be part of that lifestyle,” said physician Dawn Flickema, MD, Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine.

Health Benefits of Mediterranean Meals

Cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet:

  • An emphasis on plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.
  • Good for you oils, such as avocado, coconut and olive, serve as the main source of added fat. Almond, sesame and walnut oils also are used to add flavor and good fat nutrients.
  • Fish, seafood, dairy and poultry in moderation, with inclusion of fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Very few red-meat meals, few sugary treats and almost no processed or packaged foods.

The benefits are centered on a way of living. Making meals at home, as a family, along with gathering garden-fresh herbs and vegetables are parts of it. Since 16 countries touch the sea from which the diet is named – there are many ways to incorporate different aspects

“Cultures for whom this diet is normal have lower rates of disease,” said Flickema. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Lifestyle is Healthy Living: Regular movement is part of the culture of this area in our world, so ensure you’re getting 30 minutes of movement (adults) and an hour for kids.
  • More Plants Are Good: Few Americans get the minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables each day, so the approach and its many vegetable-based dishes can help change that. It’s a high-fiber regimen, too. Try to have half of your plate full of vegetables at a meal.
  • All the Little Things Matter: Flickema said the nutrients, fiber, minerals and phytochemicals in a traditional Mediterranean approach help you sleep well, feel better and enjoy fewer risks of illness.
  • Social Health and Purpose: The people of the Mediterranean area strive for social interactions, lots of conversation and purposeful activity to fill up the day. You can emulate those steps in your own way – tailoring not just the foods you eat, but who you eat them with and when.

“It’s an easy sell for us when we share these ideas with patients,” she added. “It is also a delicious choice.”

Get started with this penne, shrimp and tomato recipe.

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