Imagine popping a pill that is scientifically proven to increase longevity, reduce your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, reduce your chance of becoming obese and lower your risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Sound too good to be true? Even if such a pill were possible, who would want to miss the sheer enjoyment of savoring a good meal while enjoying a nice glass of wine?
Don’t worry; we won’t be following George Jetson’s lifestyle anytime soon—swallowing one tiny pill to satisfy our nutrition needs for the entire day. No such pill exists, but research has shown that following a Mediterranean diet over a number of years can accomplish many of the same results.
The Mediterranean diet is a pattern of food proportions, rather than a set list of allowable food items. The type of food, combination of items and the frequency with which they are eaten are all important aspects of the diet.
In comparison to our typical Western diet, the Mediterranean diet is a mostly plant-based eating plan that includes:
- A high quantity of vegetables, fruit, legumes (beans) and whole grains.
- A medium quantity of fish, white meat, nuts, low-fat dairy products and wine (with meals).
- A low quantity of red meat, eggs and sweets.
- Olive oil, herbs and spices, rather than butter and salt.
Given the potential positive effects on Alzheimer’s prevention, Senior Concerns’ utilizes the Mediterranean diet as one of the cornerstones of their Brain Fitness program, in addition to socialization, physical exercise and brain fitness software.
The nutrition portion of the program offers a suggested weeklong menu plan based on the diet.
A typical breakfast might include oatmeal made with nonfat milk sprinkled with a handful of dried fruit and nuts, and one small orange.
Lunch might include lentil soup with whole-grain crackers, spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette, and a handful of grapes.
A dinner suggestion includes salmon with a fresh ginger glaze, broccoli, brown rice and fresh berries for dessert.
If you’ll look closely you’ll also see the Mediterranean diet revolution happening all around you.
While not strict interpretations of the diet, fast-food and fast-casual restaurants are now offering menu choices that, while not sounding Mediterranean, do come close to the diet’s guidelines.
Corner Bakery’s Asian wonton salad and McDonald’s premium southwest salad meet many of the diet’s principles.
Macaroni Grill offers rosemary spiedini with chicken or salmon that includes higher concentrations of vegetables and a focus on white meat or fish. A number of traditional ethnic foods are great Mediterranean diet choices, such as Greek salads, hummus and wholegrain thin crust veggie pizzas.
Several local workplaces are also recognizing the diet’s benefits. Dole Foods’ and Amgen’s company cafeterias offer a variety of menu items within the Mediterranean diet.
Whether dining out, at home or at work, it’s not too late to adopt the Mediterranean diet to increase longevity and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
To learn more about how to follow a Mediterranean diet (including a suggestion to consult your physician before you make major dietary changes) go to www.ehow.com/how_ 12780_ followmediterranean diet.html.
For those who may be interested, Senior Concerns begins a new month long Brain Fitness program on Mon., May 2. Call (805) 497- 0189 for more information.