Why a Mediterranean diet isn't just for holidays

There's no reason why we should only eat mediterranean-style on European holidays. The Mediterranean diet isn't just uber delicious and super versatile. It's also healthy and super easy to prepare. Embrace it and you'll have that holiday glow all year round!

A thousand magazine articles have been written about the health benefits of Mediterranean diets. But a fascinating documentary about a tiny Greek island called Ikaria reminded us of just how good for you the whole Mediterranean philosophy actually is.  

For those of you who don't know, Ikaria is mostly known as the island that holds the secret to a (really) long life. Ikaria's tiny population of 10,000, has 3 times more people that reach the age of 90 compared to the U.S.  And its senior residents have very low occurrences of dementia, cancer, heart disease and depression. They're remarkably active and healthy and visibly content with their lifestyle. They grow their own vegetables, work the fields, dance and socialise in their tight-knit community. If you get a chance, watch this film. It'll give you a slightly different perspective on living in the moment and appreciating the small pleasures in life.

Yes, we don't all live on an idyllic little island in the Mediterranean with nothing but vegetable gardens, goats and lazy afternoons at the local cafe to worry about. We lead hectic lives where stress and anxiety seem to be an inevitable part of the game.

But no matter where we live, we can easily adopt the Ikarian eating habits. Research shows that adopting healthy diet patterns in early and mid life, and sticking to them, has big payoffs later on. You'd be less likely to suffer from common physical and mental ailments that come with ageing and more likely to lead a longer, happier life.

Simply put, good food is a powerful health booster.  
 

So what does a Mediterranean diet actually mean?  

  • incorporate fruit (bananas, apples, figs, melons, grapes, lemons and oranges), vegetables (tomatoes, avocados, spinach, carrots, kale, cucumbers, garlic), nuts, seeds, whole grains (bulgur, oats, quinoa, barley, corn, wild rice) and legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils) into every meal
  • flavour with quality herbs and spices instead of salt, fat and sugar 
  • cook with olive oil instead of butter or processed marinades and dressings
  • replace mayonnaise, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce and other processed condiments with humous, tahini and other natural dips and spreads
  • eat fish at least twice a week
  • eat low fat cheese and yoghurt in moderation
  • eat eggs and poultry moderately (every two days or weekly)
  • reduce red meats and sweets consumption 
  • Sweeten your tea and desserts with honey instead of refined sugar
  • drink plenty of water each day instead of sweetened, carbonated drinks and drink wine in moderation (no more than a glass a day)

Why is it all so good for you? Because:

  • it's high in fiber which helps with a healthy digestion and reduces the risk of bowl cancer and cardiovascular disease
  • it's high in monosaturated fats (good fats) which keep your heart healthy and low in saturated fats (which are found in fatty meats and cheeses and contribute to cardiovascular disease)
  • it's high in vitamins and minerals thanks to fruit, vegetables and lean meats
  • it's naturally low in added sugar which helps protect against diabetes and high blood pressure (often caused by refined sugars found in processed foods and sweets, cereals and soft drinks)

The best thing about embracing Mediterranean food is that it's so delicious - so you don't have to choose between gorgeous food and what's good for you. It simply takes a few adjustments and awareness of what you eat, and why. 

At Sprinkle, we're big on healthy mediterranean dishes and you'll find lots of yummy inspiration on our Recipes page. 

kalí órexi* everyone!

*bon apetit in Greek ;-)

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