Fish and Whole Grains: What You Should Take Away From the Mediterranean Diet

[ 0 ] March 9, 2011 |

This week’s news that the Mediterranean Diet is even better for your heart and waistline than we thought may have you scrambling for the fish counter and grains and nuts aisles of the grocery store.

We reached out to our genConnect nutrition expert, Melissa O’Shea, to get her insight on this diet and what she recommends you take from it to keep your heart healthy and your waistline trim. O’Shea, a registered dietician at Exhale Spa in New York City who also lectures many corporate clients on weight loss and heart disease, says she often recommends many aspects of the Mediterranean diet to her clients when discussing disease prevention and management.

“The cornerstone of this diet is based around whole, natural food with little to no processed food,” O’Shea explains. “Most Americans have a diet filled with way too many fast and convenience foods. It’s the hidden sugar and salt in these foods that have led to the surge in chronic diseases, such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. We all need to skip the snack food aisle and opt for more fruits and veggies. Not only will you get a dose of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, but you won’t find hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup in the produce section.”

O’Shea says that another key element of the Mediterranean diet is eating limited amounts red meat; those adhering to the diet eat it only around monthly. In comparison, red meat is a staple in the average American diet.

“I recommend red meat no more than once per week and even less if you already have high cholesterol. Try swapping out red meat for at least two fish meals per week, a Mediterranean favorite. More fish and less meat means more heart healthy fat and less artery clogging fat (resulting in lower LDL levels and higher HDL levels).”

And always, always, always opt for whole grain foods over others, O’Shea recommends. The Mediterranean diet doesn’t include refined flour, which means lower triglyceride levels and risk of Type 2 diabetes. “Fill one-quarter of your plate with brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread and pasta and leave the white stuff behind,” she adds.

The Mediterranean plan also calls for drinking alcohol – in moderation, that is.  “Don’t get excited just yet,” O’Shea says. “Moderation means one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. What counts as one drink? No, not as much wine as your glass can hold. Five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer and 1o ounces of 80-proof spirits. And no you can’t bank them for Saturday night. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

And of course, exercise is a vital component of any diet regimen.

“Mediterranean diet followers like to balance out their meals with a little daily activity and so should you,” O’Shea concludes. “Your higher HDL levels, lower triglycerides and better regulated blood sugar will thank you.”

For more on heart and waistline health:

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Category: Health, Nutrition, Views on the News

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About Melissa O'Shea: Melissa O’Shea, MS RD is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters of Science in Nutrition Education from Columbia University. Melissa has been working with Exhale Spa in NYC for two years and also works extensively [...]
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