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True Mediterranean Diet for Good Health

8 Sep

Ancel Keys, 96 is credited to the popularity of the Mediterranean diet. As a young scientist 50 years ago, Keys made the connection between where people lived, food they ate, and their state of health.  He found that people in Greece, Southern Italy, southern France and parts of North Africa and the Middle Eat ate a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, used olive oil and ate more fish. He compared this to the North American diet of foods high in saturated fat, beef and cheese. He found that heart disease, which was rare in countries with Mediterranean diet, was the leading cause of death in North America.  However, while the old fashioned Mediterranean diet might have been better modern day diet with white bread, pasta and white rice have been linked to increased risk of certain cancers, particularly thyroid, colon and stomach cancers. Italian fettuccine alfredo is laden with saturated fats.  A serving of fried calamari may have the cholesterol equivalent of a four-egg omelet.  These are not the kinds of food that Keys was talking about.

“The Mediterranean diet was nearly vegetarian, with fish and very little meat, and was rich in green vegetables and fruits,” says Keys, who is now a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. People living on Crete got more than one-third of their calories from fat, most of it from olive oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. They also consumed wine every day.  Recapturing the Mediterranean Ideal  Here are a few tips from Dr. Keys: 1. Fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables. The people of Crete were called mangifolia, which means “leaf-eaters,” because they consumed so many leafy green vegetables, foraged from the steep hillsides of the island. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat and very rich in nutrients, including cancer-fighting antioxidants. 2. If you’re dining out, look for entrees with plenty of vegetables and very little cream or cheese— a vegetarian pasta tossed in olive oil and a little parmesan cheese, for instance, or grilled fish served with steamed vegetables. 3. When buying bread, choose loaves made with whole grains and flours.Refined foods cause blood sugar levels to spike because they are so easily digested, says David Jacobs Jr, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Less processed, whole grain ones provide a more sustained level of energy over a longer period, making them more healthful, says Keys. 4. For dessert, choose something that provides one serving of fruit.  How about baked apple slices, sprinkled lightly with cinnamon and sugar.  

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