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The secret to healthy eating?

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the “Mediterranean diet” and it’s health benefits, but what exactly is on this diet?

Honestly, there is nothing magic about it.

There are multiple countries on the Mediterranean coast, with lots of different ways to prepare meals and difference in choices of spices, etc. The primary similarities are that they all eat a lot of fish and seafood, vegetables, fruits, unsalted nuts, seeds, and whole grains, and legumes (beans and peas). Extra virgin olive oil is the cooking oil of choice in the Mediterranean because olives grow there.

While fish and seafood and legumes are the main sources of protein, chicken, eggs, cheese, milk and other dairy products are not excluded from a healthy diet, but consumed in moderation only. Red meats such as beef, pork, and mutton are eaten only rarely.

Sugars, sugar-sweetened beverages and all types of processed foods should be avoided. You can use a small amount of honey as a sweetener, if needed, but avoid both sugar and artificial sweeteners.

As for processed foods, it is best to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. The more we humans have “helped” the food, the less healthy it generally is.

Of course, in addition to eating well, be sure to drink 60-80 ounces of water every day to keep your body well hydrated. (more on that later...)

Naturally occurring spices, either dried or fresh are fine, but avoid sodium as much as possible. Sodium is half of sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt. Salt is very often a main culprit in high blood pressure, and should be limited to approximately 500 mg per meal, or 1500-1800 mg per day for most folks. (click here to see my other post on that)

Every other spice in the cabinet is fair game, so experiment and find combinations you like. Healthy eating does not have to be bland, just low in animal fat and low in sodium. This is the “secret” to healthy eating.

Beverly J. Howard, PhD, RN, FNP-BC

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