5 key foods of the Mediterranean diet to help you stay healthy, live longer

Changing the foods you eat and eliminating bad ingredients can greatly improve your health and longevity. It all depends on your individual needs, as different people may respond in different ways to the same foods. (That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first.)

But one diet that has become very popular in recent years is the Mediterranean diet. In fact, it was recently ranked as the first in the best diet for the fourth year in a row, according to the annual US News & World Report list.

As a nutritionist, I often recommend trying to include foods from a Mediterranean-style diet – high in vegetables, fruits, olive oil and whole grains, and moderate in protein and fiber. animal fat – into your eating habit. Research suggests that key foods in this diet can help prevent breast disease and improve longevity. Another study found that there could be benefits for the brain as well.

Here are five main Mediterranean diet foods I’ve eaten to stay healthy and strong:

1. Oats

By improving the intestinal movement of food and waste, fiber helps your body eliminate carcinogens. Unfortunately, about 95% of American adults and children do not eat enough fiber, according to a 2017 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Oats are my choice for high fiber foods. Gluten-free whole grains are a great source of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. When cooked slowly, it provides a balanced portion of plant fat, carbohydrates and protein, along with good doses of iron and B vitamins.

In a study last year, researchers found that as a result of higher fiber levels, mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases decreased. The American Heart Association’s Eating Plan recommends that total dietary fiber intake should be between 25 to 30 grams per day (from food, not supplements).

Oats are also a staple for Adventists, a small community in Loma Linda, California that researchers have found live up to ten years longer than other Americans.

My breakfast often includes classic oatmeal with fruit, but oats can be prepared in a tasty style, too. You can use it as a topping instead of bread crumbs, or in heart risotto instead of rice.

2. Extra virgin olive oil

Not all melting oils (for cooking or cold preparation) are the same. Many nutritionists and health experts recommend that your first choice be as an extra virgin olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil contains monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic acid, along with many antioxidants – both of which claim to help reduce inflammation biomarkers.

A 2020 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who ate half a tablespoon or more of extra virgin olive oil per day had a 14% lower risk and an 18% reduction at risk of coronary heart disease. Adding five grams daily of other fats (e.g. butter or margarine) with olive oil also reduced the risk for total cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease by 5% to 7%.

My favorite way to add extra virgin olive oil is to pour a little over vegetables like broccoli, carrots or carrots before roasting them in the oven.

3. Fish

Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, herring and lake trout are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which research has shown may improve your cardiovascular health.

If you like fish like me, the American Heart Association recommends that adults eat two servings of fish – especially the type of fat – each week, served as 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or about 1 cup of fish. flaked. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that children and pregnant women avoid eating fish with the potential for the highest level of mercury pollution, such as shark, swordfish, mackerel and flatfish .)

Want to get creative with fish? Try using it instead of beef or chicken in your tacos. Salmon potatoes are also essential. Remember to balance your plate with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and other healthy fats as well.

4. Green leafy vegetables

Leafy vegetables, such as spinach, romaine and cabbage, are another part of the Mediterranean diet. They are filled with essential nutrients – vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, iron, calcium and potassium.

The amount of vegetables you need, which can be between one and three cups a day, depends on your age, sex and level of physical activity. Generally, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of vegetable is equivalent to a cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or two cups of raw leafy greens.

Make yourself a fresh salad with a mix of leafy vegetables for a mix of nutrition and flavor. You can also add them to whole grain pastas or soups. To get a green kick that wakes me up immediately, I like to toss some kale into my breakfast smoothies.

5. Berries

While several fruits are essential in the Mediterranean diet, berries – especially blueberries and strawberries – rank high on my favorite list, due to their rich levels of antioxidants.

Berries also contain a lot of anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid. Research suggests that anthocyanins can have a number of positive effects on the body, including lowering blood pressure and making blood vessels more elastic.

Dr. Eric Rimm, associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, has done a lot of research supporting the benefits of berries. He recommends three or more secrets of half a cup of blueberry or straw per week. One cup of whole strawberries will give you nearly 100% of your daily vitamin C needs, according to the USDA.

I usually start the day with blueberries in the yogurt, corn or oatmeal. And my salads are never complete without berries (along with sunflower seeds, nuts and beans for extra protein).

Lauren Armstrong a registered dietitian and personal nutrition coach. Previously, she worked as a nutritionist for the Women, Babies and Children (WIC) program. Lauren received her bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Western Michigan University, and has written for several publications, including Livestrong and SlàinteDay. Follow her on Instagram @ laurenarmstrong.rdn.

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