Mediterranean Diet Basics

The basics of the Mediterranean diet can be broken into 9 important areas of change for your health:

1. Vegetables - This one's pretty easy. It’s hard to eat too many vegetables...
2. Legumes - Making beans your choice for a starch...
3. Fruits and nuts - Fruit is the perfect snack...
4. Cereals - Whole grains are really good for you...
5. Fish - More fish, less meat...
6. Olive oil - This really means eating more monounsaturated fat...
7. Dairy products - The traditional Mediterranean diet doesn’t have dairy products as a major focus...
8. Meats - Less meat and lean meats...
9. Alcohol - There is good evidence that moderate use of alcohol is good for you...

Need more information? Read about the research!

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The Mediterranean Diet

No. 4 - Cereals and Grains

WheatWhole grains are really good for you. If you are used to "white" starches like white rice, pasta and white bread, make the transition slowly. There are "light" whole wheat breads that taste great, for example. Start with those and move slowly toward whole grain breads. Use whole wheat hamburger buns in place of regular.

Using whole wheat pasta is easy. The flavor’s great and with your favorite sauce you’ll be good to go.

Anytime you can substitute brown rice in your recipes, you’ll increase the amount of fiber in your diet easily. Another one of my favorite substitutions is sweet potatoes or yams in place of regular potatoes.

Choose breakfast cereals that are less processed, like oatmeal, but also look for whole grain cereals. One easy way to tell is purchasing cereal with more fiber and less sugar.

Recipes containing cereal grains:


Banana Nut Muffins
Blueberry Muffins
Bran Muffins
Carrot Muffins
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
Orange Almond Muffins
Orange Blueberry Scones
Orange Cranberry Muffins
Pecan Peach Muffins
Pumpkin Nut Muffins

Quick Breads

Apple Cinnamon Bread
Banana Nut Bread
Date Nut Bread
Pecan Sweet Potato Bread
Pumpkin Bread
Zucchini Bread

Sides, Salads, and Main Course Recipes

Yam Gnocchi
Mashed Yams
Roasted Yams
Yam Home Fries
Chicken and Rice Salad
Chopped Salad with Wild Rice
Turkey and Cranberry Salad
Wild Rice
Wild Rice and Black Beans

Pizza (made with
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough)

Barbecue Chicken Pizza
Pizza with Dill Pesto and Potato
Pizza with Mushrooms and Prosciutto
Pepperoni Pizza
Pizza with Roasted Egplant and Feta Cheese
Pizza with Scallops and Thai Peanut Sauce
Tomato and Roasted Garlic Pizza

Research Articles - Cereal Grains in The Mediterranean Diet

You can read more about the science of why eating cereal grains is so good for you in these articles:

Eating Whole Grains May Help Prevent Age-Related Weight Gain
By now, you probably know that whole grains are better for you than refined flour. Well guess what? Now you've got another reason to make sure you're eating your Wheaties® (or at least the whole-grain version): eating more whole grains seems to help reduce the amount of weight gained as you age.

Low Fat Diets Don't Make You Fat
There has been a lot of discussion and controversy about low-carb diets in the last few years. The inventors of diets like The Atkins Diet, Sugar Busters, South Beach Diet and The Zone Diet would have people believe that the rise in obesity is related to an increase in consumption of carbohydrates. They assert that by simply cutting all carbohydrates from the diet, people will lose weight and obesity will be cured. To support their claims they advance complex theories'none of which have been supported with well-designed research.

Bean there, done that!
I have written recently about the positive effects that diet can have on different cancers. We know that people with a normal Body Mass Index have a lower risk of cancer. Studies have also shown a clear link with increased fruit and vegetable intake providing a decrease in the risk of some cancers.

What I (Un)Learned in Medical School
It was about 15 years ago, but as amazing as it may seem, I actually had a professor say, "I don't care about my diet, I'll just take Zocor or another cholesterol lowering medication and keep eating my thick, juicy steaks." This was in response to a Grand Rounds lecturer speaking about the importance of diet in preventing heart disease.

Wheat FieldA roughage life...
We know that fiber can help prevent some cancers, reduce your cholesterol, help you avoid problems with heart disease and help diabetics control their blood sugar. Almost every week I read another positive study on how great high fiber foods are for your health. While there's no magical dietary cure eating foods that are higher in fiber is pretty close and is one of the easiest changes that you make in your diet.

New Year's 2007
Yep, it's that time again and most everyone makes some sort of resolution for the new year. The two most common are losing weight and stopping smoking. There's tons of advertising now directed at both and for good reason. Research shows that by picking a date, any date, the chance of success is higher. The new year is a good time but an anniversary or someone's birthday works just as well.

The low carbohydrate craze is no longer at full boil, but I still have those patients who come in and talk about being on a low-carb diet. While the plans for most such diets are pretty silly, most folks do need to cut back on calories. In general, the western diet is now largely built around the carbohydrate, and those carbs, unfortunately, have often been soaked in fat and coated with salt.

Control Cholesterol Through Diet Alone?
Canadian researchers assessed the cholesterol levels of 55 men and women over the course of one year of a recommended low-fat diet designed to combine various foods known for their cholesterol-lowering effects.

Put down the potatoes, and step away from the french fries
Researchers from Harvard Medical School recently reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on the relationship between the consumption of potatoes and french fries and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

It's never too late to reduce your risk of heart disease
I have written many times on research showing that eating whole grains can reduce your risk of heart disease. These studies had not focused specifically on whether this was true for persons over 65. Researchers in Seattle, Washington sought to establish the relationship between fiber consumption and heart disease in elderly persons.

Want to avoid gaining weight? Get more fiber!
We all know that losing weight by simply eating less can be a bit of a challenge. Researchers have been studying the effects of different elements of foods with the goal of finding ways for people to lose weight more successfully. Fiber intake has been associated with weight loss in some studies, but none of those studies looked at the effects of fruit and vegetable intake, which are also good sources of fiber.

Habits of normal-weight people
Researchers in Austin, Texas reported recently on the observed differences in dietary habits between 52 normal-weight people and 52 overweight people of the same sex, age, and height.

Diet and Glycemic Index
Glycemic Index (GI) is a concept that has been around for decades and has moved in and out of favor for use with weight loss and for diabetics. It's a great tool in many ways, but it does add another number to learn and there has long been debate as to whether diets that specifically use foods with a low GI are effective.

Carrots really satisfy you
Studies have shown that fiber intake has a strong impact on satiety (the feeling of fullness and satisfaction after eating), but few studies have looked at fruits or vegetables specifically. Researchers in Dublin, Ireland noted that tested vegetable combinations that included more carrots seemed to yield greater satiety, and devised a study to investigate why.