What does it mean to eat Mediterranean style? The answer will vary depending on who you ask, since the history and tradition of Mediterranean food comes from parts of Greece, Turkey, Spain, and even southern Italy. Either way, Mediterranean meals are delicious and they share a few things in common: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans, flavorful herbs and spices, and healthy whole grains. The meat in Mediterranean meals usually include wild-caught fish and poultry, and red meat is only eaten about once weekly or on special occasions.
With these characteristics in mind, what exactly are the benefits of eating Mediterranean style foods? All of the aforementioned ingredients have anti-inflammatory properties, since most of them are plant-based and contain healthy fats. “Anti-inflammatory” is a word that dieticians throw around a lot, but what does it really mean?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. However, chronic and unnecessary injury, usually caused by an unhealthy diet can lead to long-term health problems like heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Diets heavy in fried and processed foods, refined sugar, and saturated fat-heavy foods are all examples of unhealthy eating, which can lead to insulin resistance in the body that ultimately results in weight gain and even more inflammation. Eating anti-inflammatory foods helps combat disease and may even help you live longer!
Ever wonder why people from the Mediterranean always seem so full of life? It might be an oversimplification to attribute their health and happiness to their diet alone, but unprocessed foods and healthy eating habits are clinically proven to promote longevity and disease-prevention. All the heart of it all though, is olive oil.
The Importance of Olive Oil
Olive oil isn’t just rich in its health benefits, it also has an extremely rich and long history – olives are an ancient food, and olive trees have grown in the Mediterranean since approximately 3,000 B.C.
Olive oil is chock full of omega-3 fats, which are extremely heart-healthy. All this buzz about olive oil isn’t unfounded. These health claims are backed by research, and the FDA even allows labels on olive oil bottles to contain claims of reducing coronary heart disease.
Mediterranean meals, when eaten three times daily, contains around three to four tablespoons of olive oil, which is just the amount that some dieticians recommend to patients who suffer from heart disease.
Benefits of Eating Mediterranean Meals
Low in Sugar and Processed Ingredients
Mediterranean meals offer high amounts of fruits of vegetables, unrefined cereal products, and only small amounts of animal products. The food is, for the most part, free of all GMOs and artificial ingredients, and free of high fructose corn syrups and preservatives. Mediterranean desserts are home-made and eaten in small amounts, made with natural sweeteners like honey.
Natural Weight Loss
Do you want to lose weight, but don’t want to feel hungry all the time? Maintaining lost weight is hard, especially keeping that weight off for a long time. Mediterranean meals offer sustainable weight loss without the food deprivation. The diet focuses on eating healthy fats, while keeping carb consumption low, without making a huge effort.
It’s all in the ingredients – fish, grass-fed/free-range meats, and organic dairy products help you feel full, control blood sugar, and keep energy levels high throughout the day. If you’re vegan, Mediterranean meals make it easy to eat vegetables! Legumes and whole grains in yummy dishes like babaghanoush and Turkish patlican are also good, filling choices.
A Healthy Heart
The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in olive oil helps lower hypertension and keep arteries clear. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet decreases the chance of cardiac death by 30 percent.
When it comes to healthy eating, there’s nothing like a diet that beats natural cancer prevention. All the plant foods found in Mediterranean dishes fight the causes of cancer – supplying the body with plenty of antioxidants, protecting DNA from free-radical damage, stopping cell mutation, and slowing down the growth of tumors.
All of these benefits don’t really come as a surprise. When all the food groups are represented in the proper quantities, your body will function at its best. That’s why the Mediterranean diet is so wonderful: you can eat well and health-consciously without making a huge effort.
If you’re ready to start eating like a Mediterranean local, stop by Bodrum and try our savory dishes with all of the nutritious ingredients we’ve discussed. Moussaka, lamb tagine, sigara borek – you name it! We have everything you need to eat your way to a healthier heart and body.