For those looking to remain living independently in their own home, nutritional wellness is vital. A decreased appetite or reduced ability to buy and prepare healthy foods can contribute to poor wellbeing, injury and the need for more complex aged care.
If you’re looking for a healthy approach to diet, the experts agree it’s not what’s new where the answers lie. One culture in particular has led the way in healthy eating for centuries. What’s now widely known as the Mediterranean Diet has been proven through global scientific research to be the universally recommended approach to healthy eating.
Inquiry into the Mediterranean style of eating began in the 1960s when it was noted that people in these countries, including Greece, Italy and Spain, had fewer deaths from coronary heart disease than other developed countries including northern Europe and the USA.
The research has continued to excite scientists with tests revealing this style of eating can help to reduce heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia and disease. These are conditions that can be debilitating in later years and even lead to premature death.
In 1993, the Harvard School of Public Health, in partnership with the World Health Organization, introduced the Mediterranean Diet pyramid as an educative approach to sharing the then newly-discovered research. The guide informs people on the basis and structure of this approach to eating, making it easier to understand and incorporate nutritional wellness into daily living.
The pyramid follows the fundamental eating plan of people from cultures including Greece and Italy and has remained consistent in its information since first shared over 25 years ago.
So what is the Mediterranean Diet?
Food group recommendations come from the research conducted on healthy ageing populations in Mediterranean countries. It was quickly observed that ageing people in these regions had much lower rates of heart disease and were living in better health as they aged, without the medical intervention we see in other first world countries.
The approach to food is primarily plant based, meaning lots of fruits and vegetables. It also incorporates whole grains, olive oil, lean protein, a small amount of dairy, legumes, nuts, herbs and spices.
The Mediterranean Diet pyramid also brings in lifestyle factors, highlighting it isn’t just what we eat but when, how and with whom.
There’s also a good emphasis on healthy fats which differs from the low-fat approach that was popular from the 1970s onwards.
The key foods recommended for healthy eatingare in the following groups
- Vegetables – lots of colour, variety and especially lots of green leafy vegetables. Local and seasonal are always best, where possible.
- Fruits – local, seasonal and again colourful. Thing about oranges, lemons, apples, cherries and avocados.
- Nuts, seeds and legumes – this is where good essential fats are found which are vital to the health of the body including brain health. Raw nuts and seeds can be wonderful, as well as cooked lentils and chickpeas in stews and curries.
- Grains – whole grains are best and it’s important to know the difference. Avoid processed breads, pastas and white flour products and stick to full grain like barley, buckwheat (which is not a grain but can be used as such), quinoa, oats and rice.
- Herbs and spices – to give beautiful, rich flavours to cooking and add essential goodness. Parsley, basil, rosemary, oregano, fennel, cumin, turmeric, mint and cloves are colourful additions to your cooking and even better if freshly picked from a pot near the back door.
- Fish and seafood – a few times a week, fish with essential fatty acids is a positive choice, including fresh salmon, tuna, sardines, oysters and mussels. Try to avoid tinned varieties which usually have their natural oils removed and replaced with vegetable oils.
- Oils and fats – extra virgin olive oil is the preferred oil, as are other nut oils including almond oil, flaxseed oil and coconut oil. Oils are best raw (not subjected to heat like frying or sautéing), cold pressed, which is noted on the label, and stored in dark coloured glass. Avoid vegetable oils including canola oil.
- Dairy – a small amount of full-fat natural or Greek style yoghurt is good for the health of the gut, as are some cheeses like feta, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Poultry and eggs – chicken and duck a few times a week as well as a few eggs each week can be beneficial.
- Meats – small amounts of red meat are optional.
- Sweets – enjoying sweet treats in life is important for positive wellbeing, they just need to be limited and saved for those special moments.
Oldways Cultural Food Traditions is an influential food and nutrition non-profit in the USA that has been working with the Harvard School of Public Health over the decades on this research, sharing information in the community to help others.
Oldways’ easy to follow guide makes clear recommendations on what foods to eat and prioritise. And for lots of delicious Mediterranean style recipes, take a look at their extensive library of wonderful foods to prepare for yourself and your family.
Speak to your doctor or specialist for more recommendations on how to incorporate this positive way of eating into your daily routine.
To assist you to maintain nutritional wellness, the Pearl Home Care team can help to keep your pantry and fridge stocked with the best foods and can assist with meal preparation to make healthy eating easier.
Making eating a social event can bring enjoyment back to your meals and have the dual benefit of overcoming potential social isolation.
To arrange some extra assistance around the home, contact your nearest Pearl Home Care office for a no obligation discussion.