Adopting the Mediterranean Diet & lifestyle in Florida

By Annie Sheldon Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent
Posted 9/12/18

I receive many questions about the Mediterranean Diet and my first response is that it is not a quick fix fad diet which many of us think of when we hear the word diet. It is healthy way of living …

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Adopting the Mediterranean Diet & lifestyle in Florida

Posted

I receive many questions about the Mediterranean Diet and my first response is that it is not a quick fix fad diet which many of us think of when we hear the word diet. It is healthy way of living based upon eating traditions dating back nearly 4,000 years of those living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea and is now recognized worldwide as one of the healthiest eating patterns.

Over the last 60 years, research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean Diet lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. That’s why many doctors and dietitians are making the recommendation of following the primarily plant-based diet to their patients.

The good news is that you don’t need to travel any further than your local farmers market or supermarket to discover the delicious flavors and health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet in your own home. Many of the foods emphasized by the Mediterranean Diet align with the fresh local foods available in Florida.

The Mediterranean Diet focuses on (1) eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, (2) replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil, (3) using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods (3) limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month, (4) eating fish and poultry at least twice a week, (5) enjoying meals with family and friends, (6) drinking red wine in moderation (optional) and (6) getting plenty of exercise.

Recently I was able to experience the Mediterranean lifestyle first hand through an immersive learning opportunity in Southern Italy. Rich in agriculture, Southern Italy has many local farms, olive groves, vineyards and local markets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables.

It was very apparent how these local resources influence the cuisine, lifestyle and health in each region. The coast of Southern Italy along the Mediterranean Sea offers an abundance of fresh seafood along with providing the perfect climate for lemon production.

The Mediterranean lifestyle comes with ease to those living in Southern Italy which makes me believe that if we utilize our local resources as they do including fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms, fresh seafood, and our many opportunities for exercise in our beautiful outdoors a healthy lifestyle can come easy for us as well.

If you are interested in more information on the Mediterranean diet or other health related information, contact Annie Sheldon at the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Clay County at (904) 284-6355 or aasheldon@ufl.edu.

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