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What is a Mediterranean Diet and Should You be Following it?


It has long been supposed that in comparison to the largely carbohydrate based diet of the UK, which has seen levels of obesity and weight-related diseases soar, the countries around the Mediterranean enjoy a healthy, varied diet which we could certainly benefit from. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk not just of heart disease, but also reduces overall mortality rate too, as well as being associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and some cancers. You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet, but what actually is it? In general, it is a balanced diet consisting largely of fruit, vegetables, legumes, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats, such as from olive oil – crucially a lifestyle, not a fad diet. The diet focuses on largely plant-based foods, but is not restrictive, and still encourages the consumption of fish and occasionally meat. The diet not only focuses on what you eat, but also how it is eaten – its encouraged that you enjoy mealtimes with friends and family and indulge in a glass of wine every now and again. So how can you make your diet more Mediterranean-esque?

1. Switch up your oil

Instead of vegetable oil switch to olive oil; it contains antioxidants, oleic acid, iron and poliphenols which help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure level. Instead of buttering your toast, try dipping it in a little olive oil.

2. Up your fish intake

It can seem difficult getting enough fish into your diet, particularly at university, as it tends to be so much more expensive than a vegetarian counterpart. If you cant afford to splash out on top of the range salmon fillets, there are plenty of other options; tinned tuna and salmon are great choices, as well as trout and mackerel.

3. Substitute sugar with honey

If you normally have a spoon of sugar in your morning tea or a sprinkle over your cereal, try adding a drizzle of honey instead – because of the fructose in honey it tastes sweeter, so you’ll need less of it.

4. Plate up on veggies

Make sure you’re consuming 5-10 portions of fruit and vegetables everyday; they should be the primary component on your plate. After dinner, instead of reaching for a packet of biscuits, try some new exotic fruit; you’ll get the same sugar kick with less saturated fats.

5. Reduce your red meat intake

What with the recent surge in veganism and vegetarianism, we are often warned against the dangers of too much red meat. Having a high level of saturated fats, these products are often associated with an increase in blood cholesterol and thus heart disease, so it’s suggested you reduce your red meat consumption to just a few times a month.

6. Sit back and relax

Research shows that sharing group meals instead of eating in front of the TV helps reduce portion size and make you more aware of what you’re putting into your body. Enjoying a meal with family and friends can also be a great way to reduce stress and unwind, thereby reducing blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.  

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