The Mediterranean Diet: Listen to Mom

It has long been common knowledge that a diet of healthy fats and lots of complex carbs, fiber and protein is sensible, but more recent nutritional findings have pointed specifically to the Mediterranean diet's advantages in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

A Mediterranean diet consists of fish and lean protein, whole grains, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables while limiting unhealthy, saturated fats. Olive oil is the main source of healthy fat, and is the common theme throughout the regions that adhere to the diet. Red wine is also encouraged, from time to time.

The positive effects of following a Mediterranean diet include disease prevention and longer life. It also happens to be a flavorful, complete food plan that can help you to lose weight and maintain that weight loss through proper nutrition.

Most nutritionists recommend eating four to five small meals spaced throughout the day. This gives the body a chance to operate at a high metabolic rate. Not much gets stored as fat when you are active and actively consuming the right foods.

While there is no single menu for the Mediterranean diet -- food ranges from Spanish to Middle Eastern in influence -- there are a number of choices to assemble a day's worth of healthy eating.

For example:

Breakfast: mixed berries, Greek yogurt, oatmeal or whole-grain bread.

Snack: quinoa salad, olives, fruit.

Lunch: chicken or fish, brown rice, salad of tomatoes, cucumber and feta.

Snack: hummus, pita bread, veggies.

Dinner: seafood paella, lamb shanks, roasted eggplant.

My mother has been following this style of diet, more or less, for about ten years now. She's 60 years old and in better shape than most 20-year-olds I know. She trains for the three MS 150s a year she rides by pumping iron and cycling about 100 miles every weekend. She looks like a toothpick wrapped in rubber bands, she's so ripped, and she swears by this type of diet.

And if my mom hasn't convinced you, there is ample agreement among doctors, nutritionists and the scientific community, supported by empirical evidence and research.

Following the Mediterranean diet has been linked with an increased success rate for women undergoing fertility treatments, tripling the chances of some women undergoing IVF. Studies also show that the diet is most efficient in helping to maintain weight loss, while serving to prevent stroke, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes and high cholesterol, to name a few. It also is thought to lead to a longer lifespan, better quality of life and improved mental health.

The main advantage of the Mediterranean diet is that it is not really a diet, but rather a way of life. We relate dieting to eating less and trimming calories, but that doesn't always equate to weight loss. "Diets" and fads can often be harmful and lead to worse problems. Eating Mediterranean-style will provide the proper nutritional building blocks for a healthier, longer, happier life, without the stress of counting calories, meal-replacement shakes or any other such mummery.

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Sam Brown