Celebrate Mediterranean Diet Month

May is National Mediterranean Diet Month. Unlike many fad diets the Mediterranean Diet has been around awhile and has proven medical benefits. In fact, the Mediterranean Diet seems to constantly be mentioned to help with many of the current health problems facing Americans today. Various studies have found that this diet can help improve brain function, defend from chronic diseases, reduce your risk for some cancers, help lower cholesterol levels, and help with weight loss and weight management to name a few benefits.

There really is not “A Mediterranean Diet” but rather it is more of a pattern of eating. This way of eating emphasizes whole fruits and vegetables, olive oil and other plant oils that are rich in unsaturated fat, along with poultry, fish, and dairy products with small amounts of red meat and added sugars.

There are 9 steps to getting started with the Mediterranean Diet. The important thing to remember is that this isn’t a diet, but truly changing the way you eat all the time.

1. Eat lots of vegetables.

2. Change the way you think about meat. Use them as a meal accent not the main focus. For example, grilled strips of chicken or sirloin on a salad

3. Enjoy some dairy products. Try Greek yogurt and a variety of cheeses.

4. Eat seafood twice a week. Fish and shellfish have benefits for brain and heart health.

5. Eat vegetarian one night a week. Build a meal around beans, whole grains, and vegetables.

6. Use good fats. Try fats like extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, olives, avocados, and peanuts.

7. Switch to whole grains. Whole grains are rich in important nutrients. Try grains like bulgur, barley and brown rice.

8. For dessert reach for fresh fruit.

9. Avoid drinks that contain high amounts of sugar and little nutrients such as sodas and coffee drinks like cappuccinos or lattés. Instead look for flavored waters, unsweetened teas and coffees.

Basically, if you focus on getting more fruits and vegetables on your plate that are as close to their natural state as possible you will be off to a good start. Prepare vegetables by steaming, grilling, or roasting. Avoid frying them or coating them in sauces. This way of eating will take a little getting used to, but its benefits are well worth it.

I want to take a little time in this column to thank all of you who have faithfully read my columns. This will be my last column as an agent. I have truly enjoyed my time with the district and have gotten to meet many wonderful people. I thank you all for your support these past years.