Another Win for the Mediterranean Diet

By Charlyn Fargo

May 8, 2020 5 min read

Here's yet another reason to try the Mediterranean diet, which is actually not a strict diet at all but a pattern of eating that focuses on fresh, whole foods and avoids highly processed foods.

New research finds it may support healthy aging. And who among us doesn't want to live a long, healthy life? Research published in The BMJ in February 2020 found that the Mediterranean lifestyle helps alter gut bacteria, which, in turn, helps reduce frailty and promote healthy aging. The gut microbiota of more than 600 people in five European countries were profiled before they began a one-year-long Mediterranean diet. When their gut bacteria were checked at the end of the year, they had better bacterial diversity in the gut, and the bacteria that increased in volume were associated with reduced frailty (improved walking speed, hand strength and cognitive function, and less inflammation).

Just what is a Mediterranean diet? It is based on the dietary habits of people in Italy and Greece. Much of the diet consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, herbs, nuts, seafood and olive oil. Poultry, eggs, cheese and red wine are consumed in moderation. Red meat, refined grains, processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages are only consumed in small amounts.

How can you get started? Start the day with a bowl of oatmeal with fresh berries. Have some tuna over a leafy green salad for lunch and a piece of salmon over brown rice with vegetables for dinner. Enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, too. Think fresh, whole foods. As you age, you'll be happy you did.

Q and A

Q: Is it better to eat a bigger breakfast or bigger dinner?

A: It turns out eating a big breakfast compared with eating a big dinner has a significant effect on metabolism, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in February 2020. Researchers used a process called diet-induced thermogenesis, which is a marker for metabolism, to measure how the body uses energy after eating. When people ate more for breakfast than dinner, their diet-induced thermogenesis was more than twice as high as when they ate the same number of calories for dinner. A bigger breakfast resulted in lower peaks in blood sugar and insulin. Researchers found a smaller breakfast was associated with increased sugar cravings throughout the day. Go ahead; have that omelet and whole-wheat toast in the morning. Then go lighter in your evening meal to burn more calories.

RECIPE

We all know whole grains are good for us (and part of the Mediterranean diet plan), but how do you incorporate them into meals? Here's a tasty breakfast using wheat berries. It's from Food and Nutrition magazine.

SWEET WHEAT BERRY BREAKFAST

1 cup raw wheat berries, rinsed

1 cup red pear, diced

1 cup red grapes, diced

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt

Rinse wheat berries in strainer and place in a pot with 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to boil, and then cover and simmer until wheat berries are tender and most water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and drain any remaining water. Place wheat berries in a medium bowl. Mix in pear and grapes. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. To serve, place 1/2 cup wheat berry blend in bowl, and top with 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt. Serves 10. (Serving size: 1/2 cup wheat berry blend with 1/4 cup yogurt.)

Per serving: 140 calories; 6 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fat; 3 milligrams cholesterol; 4 grams fiber; 12 grams sugar; 38 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Photo credit: DanaTentis at Pixabay

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