The Mediterranean diet just might be one of your best healthy aging insurances. It costs you nothing (because you’re already spending money on food) and it’s easy to do.
This insurance along with not smoking and walking briskly about 30 minutes a day decreases your chances of dying from cancer and heart disease by 75 percent.
And … it decreases your chances of mental decline related to aging, helps you lose weight, and improves the quality of your life. Plus it contributes to natural healing. Not a bad deal, wouldn’t you say?
What the research says…
Researchers recognized nearly fifty years ago, tremendous variation in the rates of heart disease and cancer depending on which country people live in.
In traditional cultures of Crete and Japan, heart disease was almost nonexistent and cancer rates at various sites varied by nearly one-hundred-fold.
Further studies found that once migrants from these traditional cultures came to Westernized cultures they experienced swift increases in these disease rates proving that the changes were not due solely to genetic differences, but to lifestyle differences primarily dietary factors and physical activity.
A September 2004 study, The Healthy Aging: a study of Europe population (HALE) project followed the health of two thousand Europeans for ten years.
They found that even in old age a Mediterranean diet and healthful lifestyle consisting of nonsmoking, moderate alcohol consumption, and at least thirty minutes of physical activity a day is associated with significantly lower death rate (from all causes)—more that fifty percent.
Many research studies of the Mediterranean diet and healthful lifestyle factors have similar findings. Eric B. Rim and colleagues found a:
- 83 percent reduction in coronary disease
- 91 percent reduction in diabetes in women
- 71 percent reduction in colon cancer for men
The Lyon Diet Heart Study even found that individuals with established heart disease showed reductions of 79 percent in heart disease after just a few years of following the experimental Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean Diet
- Eat more fish (once or twice a week) and less red meat. You can substitute red meat with poultry.Because of mercury pollution it’s safer (especially for pregnant women) to eat smaller or short-lived fish such as shell fish and salmon versus larger, longer-living predators such as swordfish and shark.
- Eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables (6 to 10 servings of each a day). The fresher the better, use them for snacks (apples, baby carrots, etc.).
- Eat small portions (about a hand full a day) of tree nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, and Brazil nuts
- Drink red wine, in moderation (about 5 ounces for women and 10 ounces for men a day).Red wine contains resveratrol a potent flavonoid that some researchers suggest may retard the aging process at the cellular level. However, it is best absorbed in the mouth when sipping wine not gulping!
- Eat whole grains in bread and pastas.
- Eat healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats found in extra-virgin or virgin olive oil and avocados. These oils contain the highest levels of the protective plant compounds providing antioxidant effects. Avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats, called trans-fatty acids. They elevate levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and may lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. You’ll find these fats in foods like “snack foods” and margarine.
- Limit high fat dairy products such as whole milk, cheese, and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt, and low fat cheese.
Now, lets look at one simple recipe for eating the Mediterranean way.
Hummus is a good all around food rich in components of the Mediterranean diet. Making it yourself is easy and a whole lot cheaper than buying it at the grocery store.
You can experiment with ingredients, varying the amount of garlic, lemon, and hot pepper sauce to meet your taste.
I add turmeric sometimes just because it’s so good for you. You can also add chopped black olives (not included here). It helps to use a food processor for blending.
- One 15 oz. can Garbanzo Beans (high in fiber, protein, and flavonoids, as well as low in fat).
- 2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (soothes inflammation, reduces oxidation, and lowers cholesterol levels).
- 3 Tbs. Tahini also called Sesame Seed Butter (very low in sodium and a good source of thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese).
- ½ Lemon (rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant).
- 3 to 4 cloves of Garlic (boosts the immune system, has heart-protective benefits and antiseptic properties).
- 2 Tbs. Dried Chives (a good source of thiamine, phosphorus, zinc and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese).
- ¼ Tsp. Salt (high in sodium, so the less you use the better).
- 1 Tsp Turmeric (high in COX-2 inhibitor called curcumin helpful in relieving the pain of arthritis. Though all the evidence isn’t in yet, it may help prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease as well).
- Hot Pepper Sauce to taste (may help with weight loss, colds, and arthritis pain).
Add drained garbanzo beans plus 3 Tbs. of their liquid in the food processor.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Remove and refrigerate.
Ways to serve…
Spread on crackers or pita bread for snacks, serve along with some grapes or other fruit. You can also use it as a dip for vegetables.
Make a Hummus Veggie Pita Sandwich. Cut pita bread in half. Spread hummus inside both pieces, stuff with your favorite salad and sprinkle with salad dressing.
You also can add tuna fish to the salad or stuff the pita with tuna salad. Again, serve with fresh fruit.
I hope you enjoy this Mediterranean diet recipe as much as my family and I do. Please feel free to experiment with it and adapt it to your taste and needs.
You can look up the nutrients in foods of the Mediterranean diet on this calculator. Enjoy eating the Mediterranean way. Take out some healthy aging insurance—The Mediterranean diet!
Eric B. Rimm and Meir J. Stampfer, “Diet, Lifestyle, and Longevity—The Next Steps?” Journal of the American Medical Association 292, no. 12 (2004): 1490.
Kim T. B. Knoops, Lisette C.P. G. M. de Groot, Daan Kromhout, Anne-Elisabeth Perrin, Olga Moreiras-Varela, Alessandro Menotti, and Wija A. van Staveren, “Mediterranean Diet, Lifestyle Factors, and 10-Year Mortality in Elderly European Men and Women: The HALE Project,” Journal of The American Medical Association 292, no. 12 (2004): 1433-1439.
James A. Duke, The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns (Rodalestore.com: Rodale, 2008).
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Mediterranean Diet: Choose This Healthy Diet Option,” April 1, 2009, http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/mediterranean-diet.
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