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Greek-Inspired Power Foods

The Mediterranean diet is one of the best kept secrets when it comes to nutrition

Written by Holland Davis

A delicious Mediterranean eating plan can help protect against heart disease, diabetes, cancer and can even help with weight loss, according to WebMD. Even though diet is important, if we take a closer look, it’s interesting to note that the Mediterranean lifestyle is not all about wining and dining.

They are physically active on a regular basis. American typically consume foods higher in calories, saturated fat and engage in a more sedentary lifestyle. Studies show that our rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity are not only on the rise but are also among the highest in the world.

1 Olive Oil

is the Mediterranean’s primary source of fat. It is a monounsaturated fat: a fat that can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats. With this, it has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. Olive oil contains antioxidants that discourage artery clogging and chronic diseases, including cancer.

Spanish researchers also suggest that including olive oil in your diet may also offer benefits in terms of colon cancer prevention.

2 Leafy Greens

Incorporating more leafy greens into your daily diet can easily help manage your weight, keep your heart healthy, keep your body healthy, better manage and even avoid type 2 diabetes and protect eyeseight. They have a high magnesium content and low glycemic index, green leafy vegetables are also valuable for persons with type 2 diabetes. An increase of one serving per day of green leafy vegetables was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of diabetes. The high level of vitamin K in greens makes them important for the production of osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health.

3 Garlic

Researchers have widely believed that the organic compound, allicin — which gives garlic its aroma and flavour —acts as the world's most powerful antioxidant. But until now it hasn't been clear how allicin works or how it stacks up compared to more common antioxidants such as Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10, which stop the damaging effects of radicals. Clinical studies have shown that people with high blood pressure who took garlic capsules daily for up to five months lowered their blood pressure levels as effectively as patients taking prescription blood pressure drugs.

4 Fruit for Dessert

If you think the Mediterranean is all about gooey cakes and pastries, think again. Fresh fruit is the typical dessert. They value the natural sweetness without packing on the excess calories, sugar, chemicals and unhealthy fats like other processed desserts. And researchers from Spain and the U.S. report says that it doesn’t have to be completely fresh. Fruit that is washed, cut and stored for later enjoyment has just the same nutritional value as fresh fruit.

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5 A glass of wine a day will make the doctor go away

Mediterranean people usually have one or two glasses of wine a night. The keyword to this is small. The portion size is little enough and has been linked to lower rates of heart disease, which is due to wine’s antioxidants that keep blood circulating and prevents blood clots from forming. This part of the diet is optional.

6 Low-Fat Dairy products

This diet believes dairy should be in low consumption. The Mediterranean diet tends to stay away from dairy products. But if they do choose dairy, it will be low-fat. They choose skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.

7 Sweet Potato

The sweet potato wins hands down when it comes to its antioxidant content. From the NC Sweet Potato Commission, “Antioxidants play a role in the prevention of heart disease and cancer, and sweet potatoes supply plenty of the antioxidants, vitamin E and beta-carotene.

These substances are effective in neutralizing free radicals, which are responsible for damage to cell walls and cell structures. Vitamin E also protects against heart attack and stroke by reducing the harmful effects of low-density cholesterol and preventing blood clots.

8 Nuts

Nuts are also a part of this diet. They are high in fat, most of it is unsaturated (yes, the not-so-bad kind). However, since they are so high in fat, they should not be taken in large quantities. For the best nutrition, avoid candied, honey-roasted or highly salted nuts.

9 Fish

Reel them in. Fish is consumed by Mediterranean people at least twice a week. Fatty fish tend to lower bad cholesterol. However, it is the way you prepare it that matters. Fried fish does not have as many benefits. Oily fish contain high amounts of omega 3 oils and should be eaten on the modified Mediterranean diet ideally twice a week. Examples of oily fish include salmon, tuna, trout, herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, carp and swordfish.

10 Veggies

The Mediterranean diet is practically vegetarian, with lots of fish and very little meat. Tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, capers, spinach, eggplant, mushrooms, white beans, lentils and chickpeas are just some of what Mediterraneans feast on a daily basis. They believe less animal products and more plant products are a healthier diet.

11 Spices

Shake things up. The Mediterranean diet also includes herbs and spices instead of salt to avoid a sodium overload. Excess sodium raises blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. By using herbs and spices you’re still able to enhance flavor in food, without the risk of diseases. Experiment with spice combinations for a more adventurous and flavorful way to eat.

12 Grains

Grains are a natural item in the Mediterranean and most of it is whole grain. Whole grains contain very few unhealthy trans fats. When Mediterraneans eat bread, they eat it plain or dipped in olive oil. It is never eaten with butter or margarine, which have saturated and trans fats.

Article Reviewed: June 22, 2012
Copyright © 2014 Healthy Magazine

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