Leadership Blog Series – the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet (TMD)

Let’s face it, there are a lot of diets and lifestyle choices available. Over the last 16 months, I have been trying different diets: gluten free, dairy free, hard-core vegetarian, and finally my current love—the Mediterranean Diet. I have found that preparing healthy home-cooked meals (primarily Mediterranean Diet-focused) over the last two months has had a major impact on my life. From health to social to monetary to a psychological aspect. Leaving the “take-out” or “dining out” for lazy nights and special occasions, I decided to take on a new challenge. Over the last two months, I prepared approximately 95% of meals at home. I notice that my health issues have improved, some of which include the absence of my pre-diabetes, slight weight decrease, lifted brain fog, mood improvement, and control-control of the fuel I was providing my body. I felt stronger and lighter and I could meditate more easily. Additionally, my sleep, body functions, and concentration improved. I knew what my body told me but I wanted the scientific evidence, so I began to do some research.

According to an article in the Natural Medical Journal by Michelle Qaqundah, ND, FABNO, “A healthy diet plays an important role in the primary and secondary prevention of cancer. The Mediterranean diet is associated with lower risk of several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, and cancer—especially cancers of the breast and colon. The Mediterranean diet consists primarily of fish, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, potatoes, fruits, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), moderate amounts of wine, and small amounts of red meat. It limits processed foods and refined sugar.” 3

For those of you wanting to try this lifestyle, you need to begin with ridding your pantry and refrigerator/freezer with any processed and unhealthy food laden with refined sugar. Beginning on a Sunday is easiest so you can plan your week of meals. Keep it simple for the first two weeks, so you can ease into this new normalcy. Prepare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with snacks daily. My meals were fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish, and I limited my red-meat intake, and cut out all dairy and pork. I believe the easiest way to transition to this lifestyle is to shop the “European Way.” This entails every two to three days you food shop for only enough food you will consume within the next two to three days. This serves multiple purposes. The first purpose is you will be eating the freshest food possible. You will begin to only eat fruit and vegetables which are in season. You will waste less money on fruit and vegetables which have gone rotten or moldy. Cook with extra virgin olive oil. Qaqundah also states, “Adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a decrease in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer.” 3

My findings were that this diet choice showed improvements in circulation, riddance of free radicals, elimination of toxins, reduction of inflammation, ability to focus (possibly due to lack of inflammation), improved concentration, increased metabolism and my sugar levels leveled out. In A review of the evidence and a guide to adherence by Michelle Qaqundah, ND, FABNO, it is stated that “Inflammation is recognized as a major factor in the pathology of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, and, of course, cancer… Acute inflammation can occur during the postprandial state as a result of hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia… Healthy dietary patterns are associated with lower circulating concentrations of inflammatory markers. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fish, all important components of the Mediterranean diet, are all associated with lower inflammation.” 3 She additionally states “Free radical damage can have direct effects on DNA. Regular consumption of antioxidants in the diet improves total antioxidant capacity, thereby protecting the cell. Oxidative damage can also have secondary effects by increasing the inflammatory response and affecting genetic expression…The Mediterranean diet is abundant in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and is linked to increased total antioxidant capacity and decreased oxidative load.” 3

A randomized controlled trial done in 2007 by Montserrat et al. states that “a TMD [Traditional Mediterranean Diet] pattern promoted benefits on classic and novel risk factors for CHD [coronary heart disease]. Our findings suggest a decrease in the oxidative damage to LDL to be one of the protective mechanisms by which the Mediterranean diet could exert protective effects on CHD development. Data from this study provide further evidence to recommend the TMD as a useful tool against atherosclerosis development, particularly in individuals at high risk for developing CHD.”2

Some challenges one may face during this dietary shift are financial.  Let’s face it, it can be expensive to eat healthily. Additionally, it is time-consuming. We are used to instant gratification and we live in a fast-paced system, so to have to take the time to prepare our meals, may not be the easiest way to eat, but it is definitely the healthiest. Another challenge presents itself if you do not know how to cook. You will then be required to follow recipes—which is more time-consuming—and/or taking cooking classes, which involves both time and money.

I believe by this lifestyle helps to fulfill one’s full potential on a mental, spiritual and emotional level.  It can bring couples together, open communication lines, and expand your creativity.  Give the Mediterranean Diet a try, and Bon appetite!

 

References:

  1. JAMA Internal Medicine, Effect of a Traditional Mediterranean Diet on Lipoprotein Oxidation, A Randomized Controlled Trial by Fitó, Montserrat, MD, PhD; Guxens ,Mònica, MD; Corella, Dolores, DPharm, PhD, June 11, 2007
  2. JAMA Network, Effect of Weight Loss and Lifestyle Changes on Vascular Inflammatory Markers in Obese Women, A Randomized Trial by Esposito, Katherine, MD; Pontillo, Alessandro, MD; Di Palo, , April 9, 2003
  3. Natural Medical Journal, Mediterranean Diet for Cancer Prevention, A review of the evidence and a guide to adherence by Qaqundah, Michelle, ND, FABNO, May 2017 Vol. 9 Issue 5

About the Author: Nadine Piazza is a 1st-year student at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. She received her bachelor’s degree in Criminology from the Florida State University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Central Florida. Nadine is extremely excited about the movement of naturopathic medicine and how well received it has become in the last 20 years. She has a passion for rejuvenating health for the 65+ population as well as restoring the individual’s Vis. A majority of her focus in volunteerism has been on underprivileged children with the hope of mentorship, guidance, support, and love will encourage children and teenagers to continue their education while making positive life choices.

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