Your Wellness Guide: The Mediterranean Way

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(ROBERTO GONZALEZ)

In a traditional Mediterranean meal, you’ll notice people eating together as they take time to enjoy their food and fellowship, with platters of fish, fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruit for dessert.

What you’re seeing is the blueprint for a healthy lifestyle. Decades ago, researchers observed a lower incidence of heart disease among people in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy. The Mediterranean diet, ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report in its list of best diets, has since been shown to improve overall health and prevent many chronic diseases.

“One of the key things is to focus on whole foods,” recommends Kim Lett, an Orlando dietitian and nutritionist. “Stay away from packaged products and eat a lot of good phytochemicals.”

Phytochemicals, found in plant-based foods, may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They’re also shown to support the immune system.

In the Mediterranean diet, proteins from nuts, legumes, fish and seafood take the place of red meats. Smaller portions of chicken and dairy products, moderate amounts of red wine and negligible sweets also are recommended.

But, Lett says, “It’s not just the foods. It’s the lifestyle. It’s good social interaction. It’s physical activity. All of  that comes into play.”

Power bowls are an adaptable option to see you through your day. Lett recommends layering them with whole grains, vegetables, greens, chicken or seafood, nuts or even hummus. “You can make it taste different based on the foods you use,” she says. “That can be good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.” 

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