Nutrition is one of the foundational building blocks of health. What we eat plays an incredibly important role in our digestion, mental health, hormone production and energy levels. At Natural Terrain, assessing a patient’s diet and nutritional intake is a common occurrence. Diet is an important way to make sure you are getting all the vitamins, minerals, proteins and nutrients you need to be healthy. The diets that are prescribed are often well-researched diets that are tailored to the needs of the patient. One diet that has a lot of good research behind it is the Mediterranean diet.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet is a diet based on the daily servings of food groups. Often the Mediterranean diet is described in a pyramid, with different food groups put into different levels. The bottom of the pyramid is what should be eaten at every meal and the top of the pyramid are foods that should be eaten the least.
On the base of the pyramid is vegetables, fruits, whole grains, herbs, legumes and healthy fats. Olive oil is encouraged as the main healthy fat, but nuts and seeds are also placed in this category. Legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils should replace meat products in at least 3 of your meals each week. Every meal should focus on this main category.
The next level of the pyramid is fish and seafood. Fish is the main source of animal protein in the Mediterranean diet. It is high in Omega-3’s which are anti-inflammatory and great for your health. When selecting which types of fish to eat, it is best to choose fish with lower levels of mercury. You can look here for low mercury fish. In Edmonton, we recommend buying your fish from Ocean Odyssey Inland for some of the freshest, high-quality fish.
The third level is Poultry, Eggs and Dairy which should be consumed in small amounts. Eat these types of foods once every couple days.
Top of the Pyramid
The last category, which should make up the lowest proportion of your diet is red meats and sweets. Choose lean cuts of meats when possible and consume these only a couple of times each month. Leave sugary foods for special occasions only.
Water is encouraged to be drank throughout the day. Moderate intake of red wine is allowed, with the maximum drinks per day being 1 for women and 2 for men. While the emphasis is on food group selection, the Mediterranean Diet also suggest daily exercise and eating with others, which are good practices to start.
What are the health benefits?
The health benefits of the Mediterranean has been well studied. One of the most studied link is between the Mediterranean diet and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Studies show that following a Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of stroke, heart attacks and death from cardiovascular disease. It has also been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure.
Mediterranean diets also have been useful in preventing and treating diabetes. The Mediterranean diet can help lower glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
Besides diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the Mediterranean diet has been helpful to improve sleep quality, manage PCOS, prevent cognitive decline, decrease the risk of depression and prevent some cancers.
Although the Mediterranean diet is considered a ‘diet’, it does not require any change in the amount of food intake. Working with a naturopathic doctor to tailor a diet like the Mediterranean diet can be an important step in preventative medicine and building the foundation of health.
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