By now, everyone's probably heard about the article published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing the results of a study of the benefits of following the so-called Mediterranean diet. Ken and I have been trying to modify our diets since the first of the year, so I wanted to see how closely we are already following Mediterranean guidelines, and what we can do to improve. Here is how the NYT article describes the diet followed by the study participants:
One group assigned to a Mediterranean diet was given extra-virgin olive oil each week and was instructed to use at least 4 four tablespoons a day. The other group got a combination of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts and was instructed to eat about an ounce of the mix each day. An ounce of walnuts, for example, is about a quarter cup — a generous handful. The mainstays of the diet consisted of at least three servings a day of fruits and at least two servings of vegetables. Participants were to eat fish at least three times a week and legumes, which include beans, peas and lentils, at least three times a week. They were to eat white meat instead of red, and, for those accustomed to drinking, to have at least seven glasses of wine a week with meals.
They were encouraged to avoid commercially made cookies, cakes and pastries and to limit their consumption of dairy products and processed meats.
Just for fun, I took the quiz (sidebar to NYT article) to see how closely I am following a Mediterranean diet. Here are the points where I need to improve:
- More olive oil, in cooking, salads, maybe even as a bread dip?
- More vegetables, at least 2 servings a day. Which I do sometimes, but not every day.
- I don't eat red meat daily, but we probably have beef, pork or lamb two or three times a week.
- More beans!
- More fish!
- Give up the Oreos and Girl Scout cookies. Have homemade treats instead. Sparingly.
- Sofrito? What's that?
It could be hard for me to give up the cookies cold turkey and start making my own. Of course, what do you find on Pinterest except desserts and healthy recipes? Dark chocolate is OK, so Ken and I can keep enjoying our 72% cocoa Ghirardelli square every night. Here's another article that offers a few more specific diet guidelines.
Other health factors also help determine the food choices I make. Because I'm a petite Caucasian woman, I need to take in calcium and Vitamin D through dairy products, so I don't see myself giving up milk, cheese and Greek yogurt. Because alcohol consumption is a risk factor for breast cancer, I've worked hard since December to reduce my wine drinking from about 14 glasses a week to 8 glasses. That's a level I'm comfortable with, and it's within the Mediterranean diet guidelines.
What kind of changes are you making to follow a heart-healthy diet?