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When in Rome

Happy New Year!  It is time for a new beginning, and perhaps time for a few lifestyle changes to create a happier and healthier life.

This article will focus on the Mediterranean Lifestyle which not only includes diet, but also physical activity, having a sense of purpose, and understanding what’s truly important in life.

The Mediterranean Lifestyle

shouseThe traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle of the mid-1900s is associated with health and longevity.  Those who still follow this diet and lifestyle reap the rewards of reduced risk of chronic diseases and illnesses and a higher quality of life.  Unfortunately, the influence of the convenient, fast-food American diet has found its way to this region, as have the chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer) associated with it.

The traditional Mediterranean diet focuses on whole foods: crusty breads, rice, couscous, legumes, wine in moderation, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.  Red meat is limited, whereas the focus for protein is on fatty fish, eggs, and poultry.  Olive oil is a staple.  And in this synergistic equation, the result is a wise-fat versus a low-fat approach.  Nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil provide more unsaturated fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3s) than saturated fats.  This has a protective effect on health. 

The diet, being inherently low in processed foods, is also low in Trans-fatty acids.  By replacing saturated fats and Trans-fats with unsaturated fats, one can reduce their risk of chronic diseases, in particular, cardiovascular disease.  Also, taking the time to prepare and enjoy a meal is also an integral part of health.  It’s not only what you, but how you eat.     

The traditional Mediterranean lifestyle also includes more physical activity than the average American lifestyle.  Walking, bicycling, gardening, etcetera, not only assist in reducing one’s risk of chronic diseases, but are also associated with improved mental health, and a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Experience life: instead of watching television for the rest of the evening, go for a walk and enjoy the sunset.  Savor life.  It is sweet.   

Application

If you are interested in living the Mediterranean Lifestyle, consult with your physician first.  It may be beneficial to have a blood lipid profile test performed which will inform you of your cholesterol levels.  Once you’ve been cleared to begin, research some recipes on-line, such as traditional Greek, Italian, or Moroccan meals.

For starters, here is a simple couscous recipe, courtesy of Eating Well Magazine:

Whole-Wheat Couscous with Parmesan and Peas, 6 servings, 2/3 cup each. 

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • One 14-ounce can of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1 ½ cups of peas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Combine broth, water, and oil in a large saucepan; bring to a boil.
  • Stir in the couscous and remove from heat.
  • Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the peas.
  • Add lemon zest, dill, salt, pepper, and Parmesan.
  • Salute!

Source: Sizer and Whitney. (2014). Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies, 13th Edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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