By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
The Mediterranean diet is rooted in ancient history and was brought to the nutrition world by an American scientist named Ancel Keys who identified the link between this diet and heart health.1 What he noticed was that the population from poor small towns in southern Italy were in fact healthier than the wealthy folk of New York as well as Italian immigrants. 1
He suggested certain foods as being key components to health, which led to scores of research into what exactly makes up the Mediterranean diet and what influences its perceived heart health benefits.1
What are the components of the diet?
Along with adopting a healthy, active lifestyle, the Mediterranean diet focuses on choosing heart healthy foods to improve blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, manage blood sugar, and achieve a healthy weight. 1-4
According to the Mediterranean diet, eating for your health is a way of life, focusing on fresh, wholesome foods.1
A deeper look at this diet…
Your primary source of fuel is from plant-based foods. 1 This includes eating plenty of fruits & vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. 1-5 To cook and add flavour to foods, healthy oils like olive oil are used instead of butter. 2,4
Including high protein sources during the week is important to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. About 1–3 times a week it is recommended to choose white meat, fish, and eggs. 1,2 Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to flavour your meals.
The importance of “eating in moderation” is clear when it comes to this diet. Red meat should only be consumed 1-2 times a month (2 ½ ounce serving), and it similarly suggests lowering or avoiding sweets and fatty foods as well.1,2
Chicken & the Mediterranean Diet
Chicken is a great option to include in your diet as a high quality protein source. This is because it is much leaner than red meat – just make sure you remove the skin! The numbers are in! Cooking your chicken with the skin on and then removing it retains the moistures, and in fact lowers the fat, versus cooking it without the skin!
Mediterranean Diet Inspired Recipes
Whether or not you want to practice the Mediterranean diet on a daily basis, get inspired by cooking up the following high-protein, low-fat, antioxidant-filled chicken recipes!
Simple Tip: When a recipe calls for chicken broth, choose low-sodium. You can always add a dash of salt to the recipe at the end, but this will help you be in control of the salt content of the dish.
Mediterranean Meatballs with Roasted Peppers and Polenta
Simple Tip: If you want to stick to the diet – replace the instant polenta with whole grain pasta for more of a fibre boost!
Mediterranean Chicken & Pasta
Simple Tip: Use this recipe as a base for other Mediterranean inspired meals! Add colourful vegetables to increase antioxidants!
Altomare, R. et al. (2013). The Mediterranean Diet: A History of Health. International Journal of Public Health, 42(5), 449-457.
Alfieri, M. (n.d). Mediterranean Diet. Retrieved December 15, 2014, from taddlecreekfht.ca/userfiles/d07ca8b2-66c0-1f63.pdf
Boose, G. & Segal, R. (2014). The Mediterranean Diet: Myths, Facts and Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet. Retrieved December 15, 2014, from www.helpguide.org/articles/diet-weight-loss/mediterranean-diet.htm
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Mediterranean Diet: A heart-healthy eating plan. Retrieved December 15, 2014, from www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801?pg=1