My Favorite Reads of the Week

I have read some interesting articles and posts relating to the Mediterranean diet and living healthy.  I though I’d share these in a post and maybe make this a regular feature.

  1. Prolonging the sunshine feeling with the Mediterranean diet – This post describes the features and benefits of the Mediterranean diet along with ideas on how to closely follow it.  I like the ideas on using locally grown produce.
  2. Almonds are your friend – This post discusses the benefits of nuts and seeds.  Focuses on almonds and gives great ideas on how to use them.  This one was quite thorough.
  3. Mediterranean Diet With Olive Oil Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Risk – A short article that summarizes a five-year study on breast cancer risk in women and the Mediterranean diet.  Results showed a 68% reduction in breast cancer risk for women following a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil compared to women on a low fat diet.
  4. Hey Baby … gimme some sugar! – This post is all about watching our sugar intake and looking for hidden sugars in prepared and processed foods.  Presents four pointers to reduce sugar intake.  Watching and limiting added sugar is getting a lot of attention from the scientific community.  Very relevant topic and good post.
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Why is fitness/health/weightloss important to me?

This post is in response to the “My Weigh To Lose Challenge” event.

I want to live a healthier life, and I want to do it right now.  Fortunately, scientific research has been conducted on the role of diet, exercise, and fitness on health and longevity.  So it is just a matter of being motivated to change my lifestyle.  I want to live in good health for as long as I can, so I set out on this journey to lose weight, lower my blood cholesterol, and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and other diseases.  That, in a nutshell, is why health, fitness, and weight loss are important to me.

Describe What Types of Food I Like

This post is in response to the “My Weigh to Lose Challenge” event.

I enjoy preparing and cooking all of my meals.  My meals are very healthy and tasty, and I truly enjoy them.  Since I follow the Mediterranean diet, my meals are mostly plant-based.

For breakfast, I usually enjoy oatmeal with nuts, fresh or frozen (thawed) fruit, and soy milk.  Every now and then I cook another whole grain like buckwheat or quinoa instead of oatmeal.

I enjoy a handful of nuts for a mid-morning snack.

Lunch is usually broccoli or cooked spinach topped with a tomato sauce that I cook using extra virgin olive oil, tomato puree, onions, celery, and dried herbs and spices.  I include some salmon or poultry and a slice or two of whole wheat bread.  I follow this with yogurt topped with fresh fruit or raisins for dessert.

My afternoon snack is always a couple squares of dark chocolate with some green tea.  Very relaxing.

Then dinner is usually a whole grain pilaf (like brown rice, millet, barley, or bulgur) made with extra virgin olive oil and a variety of spices.  I add beans and two other vegetables, like sweet potatoes and green beans.  I always have fresh fruit for dessert.

There is a lot of variety in my diet.  I always have at least 3 types of nuts handy, plus I sometimes have chia seeds at breakfast.  I buy a variety of fresh and frozen fruit, and I also prepare many types of whole grains.  I also use many types of spice combinations.  I must say though that I look forward to dessert after lunch when I have yogurt with cinnamon and raisins.  That is the treat that I enjoy the most, and it is probably because the raisins are so sweet.

Describe My Level of Fitness Activity

This post is in response to the “My Weigh to Lose Challenge” event.

Currently I sit a lot.  I’m either sitting at a desk or relaxing on my sofa.  I do make time to walk 45 minutes a day, five days a week.  My walks are divided into a warm-up (15 minutes), a moderate activity level walk at 3 miles per hour (25 minutes), and a cool down period (5 minutes). The total distance I walk is about 2 miles a day.  I also do very light strength training exercises, averaging about 10 minutes a day, three days a week.

Why Would I Like to Achieve These Goals?

This post is in response to the “My Weigh To Lose Challenge” event.

I would like to achieve my fitness/health/weight loss goals because my risk for cardiovascular disease will be reduced.  Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the U.S.  I would also feel better about myself, and I would be adding years to my life and life to my years.

What are my fitness/health/weightloss goals?

This post is written in response to the “My Weigh To Lose Challenge” event.

These are my goals for the next year:

  • I weigh 198 pounds.  I want to lose 22 pounds.
  • My total cholesterol is 147.  I want it to be below 140.
  • My LDL cholesterol is 90.  I want it to be below 80.
  • My HDL cholesterol is 44.  I want it to be at least 50.
  • My waist is 36 inches.  I want it to be 34 inches.
  • I want to double my strength training activity from 30 minutes/week to 60 minutes/week.

I do not have 10 goals, but these are very important to me.

Fruits and Vegetables: Get Five or More Servings Daily

Local market
Local Produce Market

Fruits and vegetables are important in the Mediterranean diet as they provide vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients).  Fruits and vegetables are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber.  Include a variety of colors (dark green, orange, yellow, red, purple) everyday to get the widest array of nutrients.

There is strong scientific evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.  The largest and longest study to date was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health where the health and dietary habits of nearly 110,000 men and women were followed for 14 years.  When these findings were combined with other U.S. and Europe studies, they found individuals who consumed more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day had a 20 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to individuals who consumed less than three servings per day.

A serving of fruit is 1/2 cup.  A serving of vegetables is 1/2 cup, except raw leafy greens, which is 1 cup.  Based on these studies, it is recommended to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables.  The higher your calorie intake is, the more fruits and vegetables you can consume.  My calorie intake is roughly 2,100 calories, and I eat ten servings of fruits and vegetables.

To eat more fruit, try fresh fruit for dessert and as a topping on your morning cereal, oatmeal, or porridge.  Try fruits salads and snack on apples or bananas.  Also mix fresh fruit into salads.  To eat more vegetables, try oven-roasted vegetable medleys, stir fries, soups, stews, and salads,  Build meals around beans, an important vegetable.  Also explore the produce aisle at the store and try something new, because variety is as important as quantity.

Written in response to the prompt: Home Turf.

You Can Be Nutty On The Mediterranean Diet

Nuts
Fruit and Nuts

The Mediterranean diet is rich in monounsaturated fats, one type of healthy fat.  Nuts, particularly almonds, are rich in these monounsaturated fats.  Research shows that just one serving (1 ounce) of nuts is associated with lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.

Almonds contain a lot of dietary fiber, in fact the highest amount of dietary fiber of all the tree nuts.  High fiber diets are associated with lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Almonds contain powerful antioxidants that help prevent oxidation, a precursor to plaque buildup in our arteries.  These antioxidants (flavonoids and vitamin E) may be the key to almonds’ ability to protect LDL cholesterol and prevent death from cardiovascular disease.

Almonds relax our arteries so they open up, which lowers our blood pressure.  Almonds also reduce the ability of our blood to clot, therefore reducing the risk of a heart attack.

Almonds are calorie dense, so they should be consumed in moderation.  No more than one to two ounces a day.  An ounce is about a handful.  Click here to read this post for ideas on how to use almonds.

Finally it is best to store almonds in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  This is because they are high in fat, so they are prone to spoilage.

Why I Decided To Go Mediterranean

Colorful Ingredients
Colorful Italian Cuisine Ingredients

About three years ago, I decided to embark on a diet lifestyle to lose weight and keep it off.  I had lost weight in the past but would always regain it.  This time, I wanted a diet that I could stay with for the long run.  I went on a low fat diet for one year.  I lost 22 pounds, but my blood cholesterol shot up from 218 mg/dL to 228 mg/dL.  I was not happy with that.  After doing some research, I came across the Mediterranean diet.  It appealed to me because it included healthy fats, was plant based, and seemed like I would not be sacrificing anything.  It also had the scientific backing as a very heart healthy diet.

On the Mediterranean diet I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish.  Moderate amounts of poultry and dairy, and my fat/oil of choice is olive oil (extra virgin).  Very limited amounts of red and processed meats.  I also take 45 minute walks, five days a week.

After being on the Mediterranean diet for 2 years, I have lost 44 pounds, and my blood cholesterol has dropped to 147 mg/dL.  I am truly very happy with this diet lifestyle.  I enjoy the meals, and I am getting the weight loss and cholesterol lowering benefits.  Most importantly, I have had no desire to reverted to my old way of eating.  I am truly on this diet lifestyle for life.  I hope you will join me on this journey to good health.