Mediterranean Lifestyle For Dummies
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You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet and wondered if it was right for you. But the reason people in the Mediterranean region enjoy good health goes beyond the diet — it’s about their entire lifestyle. Knowing why the lifestyle is good for you is the first step to making it work. A key part of the lifestyle is the way people approach food. They enjoy their food; they don’t view it with rules and restrictions in mind. Armed with this information, you’re ready to review the key components of the Mediterranean lifestyle so you can put them to work in your daily life.

Why the Mediterranean lifestyle is good for you

Evidence shows that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of following a Mediterranean diet can be effective in preventing and reversing many medical conditions when followed properly. The good news is that the diet is just one of the many lifestyle factors that can significantly improve your health. By increasing physical activity, getting better sleep, socializing, and engaging in meaningful regular activities, in addition to getting the proper nutrition, diseases can be not only treated but prevented in the first place.

Preventing illness is the goal of the Mediterranean lifestyle. Of course, if someone is already sick or dealing with chronic illness, following this millennia-old lifestyle can be very beneficial as well. Following a Mediterranean lifestyle has been known to:
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease by 47 percent
  • Reduce the incidence and symptoms of neurogenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Increase longevity
  • Prevent cancer and tumor growth
  • Reduce the risk of death from heart disease and cancer
  • Prevent and reverse diabetes, hypertension, ADHD, and obesity
  • Prevent and reduce inflammation, which is at the base of much illness
  • Help people lose weight and maintain a healthy weight
If you follow the Mediterranean lifestyle, you can gain better overall health and increased, better-quality performance. As a society, when more people follow a Mediterranean lifestyle, healthcare costs are reduced. As an individual, you save money by staying healthy and avoiding large medical bills in the future. From a family budget standpoint, in addition to preventing illness and saving on healthcare, many of the daily activities promoted in the Mediterranean lifestyle are fun, inexpensive ways to pass down traditions to future generations. What’s most attractive about the Mediterranean lifestyle is that, by following it, people can enjoy themselves well into the latter parts of their lives and be more productive and active much later in life.

Understanding the Mediterranean approach to food

Long before you begin cooking, pick a restaurant, or start to eat, if you want to truly live with both pleasure and health in mind, you should adopt the Mediterranean approach to food. Different cultures think about food differently. In the United States, for example, people trying to lose weight often say, “I can’t even look at food” or “I’m on a diet — I can’t even think about food.” Many foods are labeled “bad,” and thinking of it too much makes you a glutton. In the Mediterranean region, people view and treat food as their greatest ally in maintain optimal health. They’re grateful for their food and feel blessed to have it. They enjoy food to its fullest with an “everything in moderation” approach. Food is also used as culinary medicine. As soon as someone has a medical symptom, they’re automatically “prescribed” a dried herb, type of food, or a spice by a friend or family member in order to make them feel better. In the traditional culture, whole food groups were never completely cut out the way they are in the United States today. Instead, people abstained from certain foods during fasting periods and when they weren’t in season, but then they enjoyed them again later on. People in the region are willing to pay more money for top-quality local food, especially if it comes from producers they know. Because the body craves the nutrients of fresh, local, seasonal produce, taking the time to procure the best of it will set you up for success. In addition, the act of growing foods yourself and cooking at home are two other healthful techniques that are praised in the Mediterranean region. Hospitality is paramount in each of the region’s countries as well, which means that people enjoy offering generous amounts of the best foods that they can afford to their guests. Food is, after all, meant for sharing, and eating communally is the foundation of Mediterranean eating.

Facts to know before starting the Mediterranean diet

In order to fully benefit from the Mediterranean diet, consider all the lifestyle-based concepts that are prevalent there. By taking a positive attitude toward food, you’ll be able to understand the important role that it plays in the Mediterranean lifestyle. Throughout the region, food is viewed not only as a traditional medicinal, but also as a form of artistic expression, a social activity, a cultural relic, and most of all, an important symbol of hospitality. Making the mental shift to valuing the preparation and enjoyment of natural, whole foods, getting regular physical activity, and making a commitment to enjoy foods in community whenever possible is important. The Mediterranean diet offers great-tasting food with rich traditions attached to them. It pleases all ages and palates. Whether you want to reverse an illness that you’re already dealing with, or prevent yourself and your loved ones from getting sick, incorporating as many aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle into your daily life as possible will guarantee results. A Mediterranean diet combined with physical activity, good amounts of sleep, and daily functionality will help you to achieve your mental and physical health goals. Incorporate the following concepts into your Mediterranean diet plan for maximum pleasure and health:
  • Eat communally as often as possible or video-chat with a friend when you can’t eat with people in person.
  • Get as much pleasurable physical activity as possible.
  • Spend time outdoors every day. Aim for 30 minutes, but even 10 minutes helps.
  • Get more natural vitamin D via the sun. Be sure to wear sunscreen if you’ll be out in the middle of the day.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff — take life lightly.
  • Engage in activities that you enjoy as often as possible.
  • Take a 10- to 20-minute nap every day if possible.
  • Try to sleep 6 to 8 hours every night.
  • Eat your largest meal (in terms of size and calories) at lunch.
  • Look for as many opportunities to laugh as possible.
  • Foster close personal friendships.
  • Plan your meals around produce. Aim for 5 to 12 servings of fresh produce a day.
  • Use good-quality extra-virgin olive oil as your fat of choice. Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil is low in acidity and high in phenols, which are strong antioxidants and radical scavengers that help rid the body of harmful oxidants, which can damage cells.
  • Get as much fresh air as possible and treat your eyes to the blues and greens in nature.
  • Search for the meaning in life.
  • Participate in intermittent fasting (with your doctor’s permission).
  • Eat the rainbow — enjoy different types and colors of produce daily.
  • Look on the bright side — the more comfortable with your life you are, the happier you’ll be.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Amy Riolo is an award-winning author, chef, television personality, food historian, and culinary anthropologist. She is known for simplifying recipes for the home cook. She leads culinary tours in Italy, is the co-founder of A.N.I.T.A. (National Italian Academy of Food Traditions), and has her own line of private-label Italian products.

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