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By Priya Kathpal

Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating plan inspired by typical foods and recipes of the Mediterranean style cooking. It’s one of the most extensively studied diet plan and is known to be heart healthy as it is low in saturated fats and sugar.

Perhaps the world’s healthiest diet, this diet features mostly fresh foods that have gone through minimum processing. Nutritionist Priya Kathpal jots down a list of key ingredients in the diet.

Key ingredients

Fruits and vegetables: The diet encourages a good helping of fruits and vegetables which provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and other essential nutrients. The benefits of vegetables are amplified as they are normally cooked or drizzled with olive oil.

Nuts, beans and legumes: These are good sources of healthy fats, legumes and fibre. Nuts and seeds common to the traditional diet include almonds, chickpeas, cashews, hazelnuts, sesame seeds and walnuts.

Olive oil: Cooking only in healthy fats especially olive oil and cooking all meals from scratch is a big part of this diet. Extra virgin olive oil is a highly concentrated source of monosaturated fat, a type of fat that has may health benefits.

Fish and poultry: Cutting down on red meat but getting proteins from fatty fish and poultry is a major part of the diet. Fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat that is associated with lower risk of hearing loss. Eggs are avoided in Mediterranean diet.

Dairy products: Including dairy in fermented forms like curds, yogurt and cheese is a traditional practice in Mediterranean cooking. The calcium in these dairy products is important for bone and heart health.

Red wine: Red wine is used in moderation with meals. Individuals are only recommended to drink wine if they are medically able to do so.

Herbs and spices: Herbs and spices add flavours and aromas to foods reducing the need to add salt or fat while cooking. They are also rich in broad range of health promoting antioxidants and are used liberally in Mediterranean cuisines.

Availability of ingredients:

It’s not very difficult for Indians to follow this plan as we are already big on whole grains and vegetables. Almost all ingredients are easily available. We will just have to make an effort on cooking style and certain ingredients like olive oil. Vegetarians will have to focus on low fat dairy, nuts and seeds to get the protein allowance right.

Health benefits:

Studies have shown tremendous potential in this diet. A large percentage of total fat in Mediterranean diet is from monosaturated fat which is largely responsible in lowering the risks of cardiovascular diseases. This form of diet also keeps diabetes, blood pressure and lipid profile in check. Some research also shows it lowers the probability of getting Alzheimer’s and depression in later age.

Mediterranean sample diet plan by Nutritionist Priya Kathpal:

Breakfast- Whole wheat or buck wheat pancakes (no sugar is added; it is instead made like dosas with herbs and spices and limited salt)

Mid morning – Fruit salad

Lunch – Kidney bean salad with loads of steamed veggies and dressing of olive oil and vinegar

Snack – Wheat crackers with a dip like hummus

Dinner – Grilled fish with vegetables and avocado dressing

You can have buttermilk, iced tea without sugar or lemon juice anytime of the day.

3 glasses of red wine per week is allowed.

Decaffeinated coffee or tea is preferred over regular provided they are low on sugar.

Image source: Getty Images

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The Mediterranean diet — dietician’s tips to start with this healthy plan