When it comes to eating, the people living along the Mediterranean know how to do it right. Their plant-based diet, known as the Mediterranean diet, includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, cheese and yogurt, olive oil, fresh fish, beans, seeds, nuts and even some wine. Eating this way has increased their lifespans and lowered their risk of a number of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Although people living in the United States sometimes have a difficult time adopting the Mediterranean style of eating, there are a number of healthy Mediterranean-style foods you can easily incorporate into your diet.
The Mediterranean diet includes many of the same grains included in the typical U.S. diet such as wheat, corn, oats and rice. To get the most benefits from grains, the majority of the grains you consume should be whole grains. This means eating more whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas, as well as brown rice and old-fashioned oats.
Fruits and Vegetables
A typical Mediterranean diet includes large quantities of fruits and vegetables, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Fruits are consumed whole and enjoyed at all meals, often served as dessert. Vegetables are also included at most meals and served with a drizzle of olive oil. Vegetables are an important source of nutrients and help satisfy hunger. Any fresh fruit or vegetable is a healthy choice for Americans to consume.
Cheese and yogurt are additional staples of the Mediterranean diet, but are consumed in moderate amounts. As sources of calcium, cheese and yogurt support bone and heart health. On your Americanized Mediterranean diet, choose low-fat cheese and yogurt.
The Mediterranean diet also includes moderate amounts of seafood. Omega-3-rich fish are preferable, so include salmon and tuna in your diet. Shellfish, such as shrimp, also make a healthy choice. Do not use batter or fry your seafood; instead, broil or grill it and add a little olive oil for taste.
Legumes are also a staple of the Mediterranean diet -- and include foods such as peas, chickpeas and lentils. Legumes are a good source of protein and fiber. Add them to your grain or vegetable dishes, or mix them in your salad. Eating more legumes helps control your blood sugar if you have Type 2 diabetes -- and can also lower your risk of coronary heart disease, according to Medical News Today.
Olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is rich in healthy fats, and also a good source of phytonutrients. In addition to adding olive oil to your vegetables and fish, you can also use it as a dip for your whole-grain bread. Nuts and seeds are also consumed liberally on the Mediterranean diet. They not only supply healthy fats, but also protein and fiber. Nuts and seeds make a healthy snack for Americans -- and also add crunch to your salad and grain dishes.
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.