When you think of food from Mediterranean countries, your first thought may be pizza and pasta from Italy or lamb chops from Greece. Or, for a special treat, gelato and wine might come to mind. While these are certainly Mediterranean inspired foods, there’s so much more delicious foods to be found in the Mediterranean diet.
Even more importantly, the Mediterranean diet offers plenty of health benefits that are increasingly important as you age. Not only is the Mediterranean diet appetizing and delectable, it’s also good for your overall well-being.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on traditional foods and meals found in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is plant-based foods and adding flavor through herbs and spices. Healthy fats are also introduced through olive oil, nuts and fatty fish like tuna and salmon.
The main components of this style of eating include:
- A primary focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nut and seeds, beans and healthy fats
- Protein from fish, poultry and eggs, with a limited red meat intake
- Moderate portions of dairy products
- Herbs and spices to lessen the need for salt, and
- Red wine (in moderation)
What Are the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet garnered attention in the 1960s when it was observed that those following the diet had some of the lowest rates of chronic disease and some of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Subsequent studies then found that the diet of those living in Mediterranean countries was associated with reduced risk factors for certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. One such study in 2013 found that, “among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.”
Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Mediterranean diet is the reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Following this diet limits your intake of processed foods and red meat, which can be contributing factors to an unhealthy heart.
- Protection against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Since the Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy, it may also help to reduce a decline in your cognitive abilities as you age. This is because the brain requires plenty of nutrients and oxygen for peak performance, which is achieved with proper vascular health.
- Protection against certain cancers. With an increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you’re setting your body up for success by reducing the risk of certain cancers, such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
- Maintaining agility and weight. The focus on fresh, whole foods in this diet help to reduce the risk of muscle weakness and maintain a healthy weight.
- Increasing your lifespan. By reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in the United States – and cancer, you’re adding years to your lifespan.
As always, be sure to consult your healthcare provider and/or dietitian before making major changes to your diet. Each person is unique, and while the Mediterranean diet can influence a healthy body, it’s best to ensure what you eat benefits your specific needs and lifestyle.
Physical Exercise and Socialization Alongside the Mediterranean Diet
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper healthy eating guide without the inclusion physical exercise. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. If a chronic condition inhibits this goal, you should try to be as physically active as your abilities and conditions allow. This physical activity can include anything from exercising in a fitness center to staying active right within your home by doing activities like stretching or walking in place while watching T.V.
An interesting distinction for the Mediterranean diet goes beyond the food you put in your body and physical exercise – it also includes making mealtimes a social experience. Humans are social beings and hard-wired to crave connections to the community around us. The act of talking to others over the dinner table can relieve stress and boost your mood, so gather family and friends to share a meal together.
At Ventana, we offer all three of these factors to help you live your very best life and maintain your health for as long as possible – delicious Mediterranean meals, rejuvenating physical exercise and engaging socialization.
Experience the Taste of the Mediterranean at Ventana by Buckner
Whether you’re looking for Mediterranean-inspired food for the nutritional benefits or you’re just craving the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the team at Ventana by Buckner has you covered. As part of our extensive culinary offerings, one of the five venues by Chef Stephan Pyles is Mediterraneo.
Mediterraneo features big, bold flavors and healthy cuisine of the Mediterranean in a semi-formal setting where you can enjoy a savory meal while chatting with neighbors and friends. Oh, and there’s a classic brunch menu on Sundays, too! Plus, a cozy coffee bar is situated within Mediterraneo that serves complimentary continental breakfast seven days a week and a full-service bar during dinner and brunch hours.