No matter what age you are today, it’s crucial to understand that the choices you are making with your body today will significantly impact how well it will work when you are in your nineties. It can even determine whether you are still living at that age.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been introducing you to the benefits of what nutritionists call “The Mediterranean Diet.” Now, I don’t want you to confuse it with the fad diets that have floated around our culture for the last 50 years. While there are some good ideas out there, most of them fail after a short time because they don’t produce consistent results. They might help you lose weight quickly, but they don’t keep it off, they don’t make you healthier, and they don’t necessarily make you happier.
They aren’t designed to.
Good Intentions, Bad Track Records
Some are designed with really good intentions but are hard to implement and even harder to maintain. A few of them are designed to make money off people who are desperate to lose weight. Plus, not all diets work for all body types, so one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. You have to know what is going to work for you.
Contrast that with the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean Diet has been observed pretty consistently for 5,000 years, and the people who have followed it have been consistently healthy all along. That’s a pretty solid track record.
A Great Track Record
One of the guiding principles of my practice is that we can draw wisdom for our health from the simple lifestyles of our ancestors. They worked outside, ate real plants and animals, stayed connected to the earth, and slept when it was dark outside. Their lives were not cluttered with constant activity, polluted air, or food from a test tube.
Here in America, we’ve developed a processed, preserved, pretend food supply that leaves us listless and sickly. Around the Mediterranean Sea people have been eating a delicious, diverse, and nutrient-rich diet that not only keeps them strong and healthy but tastes great, too. People in that area are strong and vibrant with a healthy glow (and a gorgeous tan!).
If you visit there, you will not see a lot of obese people. You won’t see many people on multiple medications for diabetes, hypertension, or leaky gut. Why? Their diet isn’t quietly killing them like the Standard American Diet. CNN ran a report in July 2017 that showed how following the Mediterranean Diet could lower your risk of dementia by a third. There is a reason that at least two of the Blue Zones, places where people enjoy health and longevity well over the age of 100 – and have done so for centuries – are located in the Mediterranean Basin.
What Can We Learn From This Diet?
The Mediterranean Diet shines a light on several problems I see with most diets. When you know what these fail points are, you can recognize them more quickly.
Many diets limit your fat intake as a way of promoting weight loss, but that’s backward.
Fat is one of the most misunderstood topics in American health literature, due to a deliberate misinformation campaign that began in the 1950s with Ancel Keys’ “Seven Countries Study,” which he said proved that fat caused heart disease, stroke, and other diseases. The sugar industry used this false information to their benefit, and the devastating effects of this campaign will only be fully understood when we get to Heaven. Millions of people have died preventable and horrible deaths because they were given false information about fat and sugar. Monounsaturated fat and saturated fat are not only healthy, but they are also critical for optimal brain and cardiovascular health.
Yes, you read that right. After all, your brain is made of fat and water.
Good Oils and Bad Oils
One of the big things that the Mediterranean Diet does right is how it incorporates generous amounts of omega-3-rich fats, like fish oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados. Notice that I didn’t mention corn, soybean, or canola oil. Those oils are not healthful. They are high in unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids and most of them go rancid when heated. Avoid them.
Nuts, seeds, and olives not only add a rich flavor to most meals, but they also add healthy amounts of these good fats, so the meals are more satisfying, even in smaller portions.
Meat is a part of the diet, but it is a small part: about the size of a deck of cards two or three times a week. You don’t see a lot of beef or pork in the Mediterranean Diet. Instead, you see lean cuts of poultry served as a topping on a salad. They treat meat as a condiment because we all need nutrients like Vitamin-B12 and amino acids that can only be found in animal products. Fish is a key component of the diet. Enjoy herring, tuna, or salmon (even sardines!) a couple of times a week. These fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and they taste great served Med style!
One of the biggest issues I have with most diets is when they go to extremes. The vegans eat no animal products and miss out on the nutrients only animal products provide. On the other side, I see people take the Paleo, Atkins, and Keto diets to the opposite extreme, overloading their bodies with meat at the expense of vegetables. Your body has a limit to how much protein it can handle before your liver converts the amino acids into sugar. An excess amount of protein may be turned into sugar that feeds systemic infections and can lead to autoimmune diseases. Plus, the surge in glucose triggers an “equal-and-opposite” surge in insulin that your body has to process, along with all the other insulin it’s already working on.
If you are emphasizing protein and fat in your diet, that’s fine, but obey your body’s limits or you will end up defeating everything you are trying to do.
Extremes in any area of life will hurt you in the long run – even if you pursue them with sound logic and good intentions. Balance is a major key to a successful life.
I understand the logic behind limiting carbs. The Standard American Diet over-emphasizes carbs to an extreme. Most Americans get most of their calories from carbs, including bread, pasta, and baked goods.
Naturally, the “equal-and-opposite” reaction of most diets is to eliminate carbs altogether. There are times when you can – and should – eliminate carbs for a season, but there’s a balance. I see grains listed as a primary source of nourishment throughout my Bible and other ancient literature, so it can’t be all bad. There is some truth to the idea that the ways we grow and harvest our grains are widely different from the way they did it for centuries, and it has had a detrimental effect on the nutritional value of our grains, but that doesn’t mean healthy grains aren’t available, you just have to know where to look. Also, there is wisdom in how grains were prepared in ancient times that aided in their digestion.
I know I talk about this all the time, but it really is an important part of why the Mediterranean Diet works when others fail. It’s not something you to do to your body for a few weeks to lose a few pounds. This is a lifestyle of health and wellness that comes with its own built-in accountability. So many diets require you to check in with an accountability partner and go over everything you put in your mouth. It can be shaming. You might be tempted to lie or hide things.
Not so with the Mediterranean Diet. This diet is meant to be enjoyed socially. Around the Mediterranean, people are often outdoors, keeping active, eating in social groups, playing, dancing, and working together. Fresh air, wine, and social gatherings are just as much part of the diet as fresh vegetables. In that way, it’s a complete package. Maybe that’s why it has survived for 5,000 years when so many other diets have disappeared.
An Easy Transition To Your Best Life
I want to see you live your best life in vibrant health. I don’t want it to be a drag to live well. Some people think I advocate for surviving on rice cakes and grass clippings. Not at all. I want you to enjoy life, and the Mediterranean Diet is an enjoyable way to eat.
If you are having a hard time moving away from the unhealthy, disease-prone, addictive Standard American Diet, I get it. It’s hard to leave behind. Not only is it loaded with addictive chemicals like sugar and MSG, but most of that food also has emotional baggage that links you back to simpler times in your life. That’s why they call it “comfort food.” I understand how hard it can be to give that up.
The nice thing about the Mediterranean Diet is that it is an easy first step to eating healthy. You will leave behind a few cravings that have been the source of your tiredness, joint pain, headaches, and bloating (not to mention a dozen other symptoms). In their place, you will discover a whole new palette of flavors and colors to enjoy. You will be shocked at the life you’ve been missing out on, and you won’t miss the bland, over-processed food you’ll leave behind.
The Next Level
Then, let’s take it to the next level. If you really want to experience what it’s like to eat for pleasure without guilt, join me at our next Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner on Thursday, April 4 for a dinner you won’t soon forget. My guest will be the delightful Juliana Sagitta of Mediterranean Meals, and her cooking is out of this world — and perfectly healthy! Dinner will start at 6:15 p.m., and she’ll speak for a little bit after dinner. Don’t miss it.
Join me on this adventure, and be sure to bring someone along. You might be surprised at the people around you who are looking for a way to enjoy better health without a bunch of medicine. Take a few seconds right now to share this article on your favorite social media channel.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas