How to live and eat like a Mediterranean
The famous Mediterranean diet has long been synonymous with the healthiest way you can eat, with numerous scientific studies backing its ability to prevent disease and support longevity. British Cardiologist Aseem Malhotra visited the Mediterranean to create a yet-to-be-released documentary called ‘Pioppi Protocol’ in order to explore the famous diet and what makes it so special, but soon realised that maybe it’s the whole Mediterranean way of life which is the key, not just what they eat: "We need to redefine the Mediterranean diet," Malhotra said. "The truth is that it's a lifestyle. It's the whole approach. It's the food. It's the social interaction. It's getting the right kind of exercise. It's being outside. It's getting sunlight and sunshine.”
In ‘Blue Zones’ such as Icaria (Greece), and Sardinia (Italy), residents are known for their healthy way of life by the beautiful Mediterranean ocean. Their routine includes daily exercise (usually lots of walking and cycling around their local town or village), their siestas, and most important of all, their largely plant-based, seafood-rich diet. In contrast, over here in the UK, many of us live fast-paced lives in the city, which revolve around sitting inside in an office, so taking regular walks in fresh, unpolluted air is not an option for most of us. This is why we at Shoptimix have designed a Mediterranean-style schedule for you which you can incorporate into your daily life. Even adopting just one of these habits could make a huge difference to your well-being.
7am: Get up and take a long walk or jog with a friend, or even by yourself. Mediterranean people prioritise both spending time with their friends and family, and getting in an adequate amount of daily exercise. Recover by drinking some water, the go-to beverage for those living in the Med.
8.30am: Have a leisurely breakfast. You could have a bowl of fruit and natural Greek yoghurt, a slice of frittata or tomato sauce on toast to help you start your day on the right foot.
11am: Grab a handful of nuts for a healthy snack. This will tide you over until lunchtime.
2pm: Head out for a late lunch with a couple of your colleagues. Enjoy one another’s company, and don't think about work. Not only will this allow you to destress, but you will also find that as you’re chatting to people, you will only eat until you’re full, instead of sitting down quickly to eat whilst looking at your phone or computer screen and not really registering what you are eating. Go for a Mediterranean speciality, which will for sure involve vegetables, whole grains, legumes or fish. Enjoy some fresh fruit or yoghurt for dessert.
4pm: If you can squeeze it in, have a power nap. There are many scientifically proven advantages to napping during the day, including reduced stress, better cardiovascular function, improved alertness, memory and concentration as well as overall work efficiency!
6pm: Take a break from the computer and snack on some fresh, seasonal fruit. This will re-set your mind, prevent you from getting overly stressed, and allow you to go back to your work with a fresh perspective.
9pm: Eat the last meal of the day with your friends or family. Enjoy some bread dipped in olive oil as an appetiser, as freshly baked bread is an important part of the diet. Then, for your entrée, bake or broil some fish and eat it with a good amount of vegetables and a serving of whole grains or legumes. Enjoy your meal with a glass of good quality red wine. Don’t forget that you should also work the following key ingredients into your diet. Including them into your diet becomes easier when you know why they are so good for you.
Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
Garbanzo beans are a real all-rounder, as they contain many components which your body needs. Not only are they rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, but they also contain phytochemicals called saponins, which act as antioxidants. Chickpeas are also high in fibre, so they are great for your waistline as they’ll fill you up without packing on the pounds. They can also supply your body with many beneficial nutrients, including folate, magnesium, zinc and copper.
Olives and Olive oil
Olives and their oil are one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet. They are rich in antioxidants, but particularly vitamin E, which can reduce oxidative stress in the body. Olive oil can also help to decrease your blood pressure, risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, the polyunsaturated fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids -like those found in olives- “when eaten in moderation and in place of the saturated fats found in meats and dairy products, can be good for your heart.” However, you must be aware that olive oil is one of the most calorie-dense foods on earth, and that just two tablespoons of olive oil is 240 calories.
Tuna is an excellent fish to include in your diet as it contains a diverse array of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Tuna is exceptionally rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to benefit cardiovascular health. It also contains significant amounts of the vital nutrients vitamin B12, B6 and B3, as well as the minerals magnesium, potassium and selenium. Omega-3 deficiency is a common underlying deficiency for heart disease, so it’s particularly important that you get enough of this vital nutrient.
Steamed prawn contain a great amount of selenium, vitamin B12, phosphorous, choline, copper and iodine. Not only that, but unusually for an animal protein, they also contain antioxidants. In addition, a medium shrimp is only about 7 calories, which means that even if you ate 14, you would only have consumed 98 calories.
Aubergines are an excellent source of fibre, vitamins B1 and B6, copper, manganese, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K. They are a great versatile vegetable which can add a wonderful texture to dishes. Surprisingly, eggplant is also a brain food, as it contains a phytonutrient called nasunin, which has been found to protect brain cell membranes. Eggplant is the base ingredient for making homemade babaganoush, a popular Greek dish.
Tomatoes contain high amounts of beta-carotene, vitamins A, E and C, and lycopene. Tomatoes are also excellent when combined with other popular Mediterranean foods such as olive oil. Combining these two natural delicacies can increase the body’s absorption of the phytochemicals found in tomatoes by 2 to 15 times!
So you’ve read all about the Mediterranean diet and you’ve decided you want to start eating just like they do. What guidelines should you try to follow?
- Eat a primarily plant-based diet including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
- Have a minimum of 5 servings per day of fresh fruit and veg
- Eat fish or seafood twice a week
- Eat poultry and dairy a couple of times per week
- Replace butter with olive oil
- Try not to eat more than four eggs per week
- Eat mainly locally and seasonally
- Keep your meat consumption to a few times a month
- Avoid processed meats and sweets
Want to incorporate some of these Mediterranean foods in your diet? Find them and discover many more in the Mediterranean Shopping Llist by Maria Florez