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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.