A restaurant, family, or individual that serves and eats the “Mediterranean Diet” knows something that many of us do not. The Mediterranean Diet is much more than just a diet. It is a full and complete lifestyle. You have to adopt it, it must become second nature. For centuries it has been the accepted way of life of the people surrounding the Mediterranean Basin, especially in places like Spain, Italy and Greece. The Mediterranean Diet is a heart-healthy diet combining elements of Mediterranean-style cooking as well as the specific ingredients, herbs, and spices from this region of the world.

The Mediterranean Diet is also an accepted way to aid in the prevention of common diseases. The most significant are stroke (first cause of death in women and second in men) and heart attack (the main cause in men), but include many more. The importance of the Mediterranean Diet in the prevention of the metabolic syndrome has been proven time and time again (some health disorders of which the most important are: too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure and / or insulin levels and unbalanced levels of cholesterol). Other benefits include prevention of lung diseases, asthma, many allergies, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and also helping keep bone mass in the elderly. Recently, it has been reported that the Mediterranean Diet is consistent with low incidences of many types of cancer. People “living” the Mediterranean Diet plan have a 70% higher expectancy of life and an 80% higher quality of life (assuming they do not smoke, etc.).

The essential Mediterranean Diet characteristics consist of:

1. High consumption of virgin olive oil.

2. High intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and legumes.

3. Use of non refined carbohydrates (portions to be adjusted to physical activity).

4. Consumption of fish, specifically oily fish, three to four times a week.

5. Consumption of milk and derivates, cheese (goat and feta are popular) and yogurt. Keep an eye on the scheduled fats of the dairy products and keep them low!

6. Eggs in moderation (3-4 weekly).

7. Moderate consumption of meat and saturated fats (special occasions, etc.).

8. One or two small glasses of wine a day, preferably a glass with your dinner. White wine and beer can be used as alternatives.

9. Nuts as the main snack.

When dining out at local restaurants, try to find healthy options or search your area for a restaurant specializing in Heart Healthy, Mediterranean cuisine. It is a simple way to keep yourself healthy and happy. Cheers!