Can A Mediterranean Diet Extend Your Life

Can A Mediterranean Diet  Extend Your Life
While away a few weeks ago, a friend mentioned that she was going to eat healthier--like me. I did not say anything, but truth be told while I do not eat a lot of sweets, meats or other things that may be called unhealthy. This is not a be healthy choice, I am simply a picky eater. I do not especially enjoy eating sweets until I ache and chocolate does not send me into a meltdown. That is one of the reasons I am the person that works the chocolate table for my annual library fundraiser--there is no fear of me eating the goods. I enjoy meat but seldom over-indulge. My downfall is thick crusty bread and butter, lots of butter.

Sadly, I am a serious late-night nosher and have gained weight since retiring from my 9 to 5 job in 2005. Just recently I done some research about a mostly Mediterranean diet since it would not be a real stretch for me. I love all vegetables and all legumes. The question is will a mediterranean diet help become a truly healthy eater?

Researchers like Dr. Antigone Kouris-Blazos have long touted the benefits of eating a traditional Greek-style diet. In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study of 22,000 adults in Greece conducted by Dr. Kouris-Blazos and her colleagues. In the study, a traditional Greek diet was defined as small amounts of red and white meat, larger amounts of fish, lots of vegetables and legumes, fruits and nuts, moderate alcohol with meals, low dairy intake of mostly cheese and yogurt, and fat intake of mostly olive oil. The results were significant: For those 55 and over who had greatly reduced their meat consumption and taken in more olive oil, the risk of dying from any cause fell by 25 percent during the four-year study.

What is a good Greek-style diet?

Legumes. Traditionally in Greece, meat was skipped twice a week for religious reasons and replaced with legume-based meals (peas, beans, lentils). But you don’t need a religious reason to do the same.

Dark green, leafy veggies. They are excellent sources of magnesium and Omega-3 fats (spinach, bok choy, endive, dark green, leafy lettuce and greens from other sources).

Rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Choose a wide range of colors when it comes to your vegetable and fruit consumption. Eating a variety will ensure you get high levels of antioxidants.

Fermented foods. In the Greek diet that means feta cheese and yogurt, which introduce healthy bacteria into the digestive tract.

Extra virgin olive oil. This provides beneficial fatty acids and is loaded with antioxidants.

Herbs. They provide trace minerals and, of course, taste appeal to help you eat more vegetables (oregano, thyme, rosemary, dill, and mint).

Seeds and nuts. Skip the potato chips and rely on these for snacks—pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas, almonds, and walnuts.

Fish and other seafood. Reduce your other meat intake with a higher proportion of seafood.

I could do this, but wait, no bread? Whine. Can I forego loaves of good bread from the bakeshop? Will I stop my midnight foraging? And will I be able to eat only regular-sized portions. I do hope so. As one who loves to cook, this is going to be a real challenge.

Antigone Kouris-Blazos
New England Journal of Medicine

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