Dear Doctor, Is the Mediterranean diet the healthiest diet?

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with adverts and social media posts, it can be hard to know what diet we should be following.

The amount of health foods and body or fitness ideal images we see on social media has massively affected the way we perceive food and health. We are becoming not only more body conscious but also more health conscious too. We have all seen popular diets come and go over the years and can name a few instantly. Now we are seeing things like 30 day challenges and shreds, the ‘superfoods’ and there are always new diet pills on the market.

But are any of these diets actually good for us and more importantly are they actually achieveable?

I want to talk about the Mediterranean diet. A lot of research has shown that the people living in places like Greece and southern Italy who follow the local diet are healthier than the average person. On the whole they have less heart problems, less diabetes, less blood pressure problems and lower cholesterol. So surely they must be doing something right!

The main reason I like the diet is because it’s actually quite simple to follow, it’s not strict and if followed sensibly it is shown to be good for your health.

So what exactly does this sort of diet involve?

In terms of what is allowed in this diet you can eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, whole wheat breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood.

Rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil should be used instead of butter or margarine and herbs in place of extra salt.

Things that should be eaten in moderation are poultry, eggs, cheese and yoghurt. 

Red meat is to be eaten at most once a week.

Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods are to be avoided completely.

A basic example would be:

Breakfast: Vegetable omelet, Fruit.

Lunch: Cheese salad sandwich on whole grain bread.

Dinner: Vegetable pasta bake or grilled fish with vegetables 

Obviously portion sizes need to be sensible. There’s plenty of information about this diet online and lots of diet plans and ideas freely available. 

So if you are looking for a simple healthy diet, my recommendation is forget the fad diets or quick fixes and stick to the Mediterranean diet!

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