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. 3 - Fruits and Nuts

AppleFruit is the perfect snack. Sweet and satisfying, it’s important to keep your fridge full of apples, pears and oranges so that you always have something. While drinking juice is OK, actually eating a piece of fruit is likely better for you and more satisfying.

Nuts are great for you. They do have a lot of calories, but even though most of the calories come from fat it is the good monounsaturated fat that you want in your diet. There is in fact good research that if you replace a two ounce cookie with two ounces of nuts you won’t gain weight (even though the nuts may have more calories).

Information about some of the fruits and nuts used in my recipes:

Apple Types
Pine Nuts
Pumpkin Seeds / Pepitas
Sesame Seeds

Recipes containing fruits and nuts:

Apple Pancake
Apple Cinnamon Bread
Waldorf Salad
Pork Chops with Caramelized Apples
Banana Nut Bread
Banana Nut Muffins
Curried Chicken Salad
Date Nut Bread
Honey Peach Pecan Muffins
Mango Salsa
Melon Salsa
Napa Cabbage Salad
Orange Almond Muffin
Halibut with Orzo Dill Pesto
Basil Pesto
Pumpkin Nut Muffins
Red Pepper Orzo
Roasted Eggplant Salad
Sesame Chicken Salad
Stuffed Turkey Breast
Sweet Potato Bread
Turkey and Cranberry Salad
Turkish Lamb with Peas
Udon Noodle Salad with Salmon
Waldorf Salad

Research Articles - Fruits and Nuts in The Mediterranean Diet

You can read more about the science of why eating fruit and nuts is so good for you in these articles:

A Mediterranean Diet Won't Make You Fat: You've probably heard that a "Mediterranean Diet" will help you live longer.... Recently, though, there's been some concern that although a Mediterranean diet might be good for your heart, it appears to lead to weight gain and obesity.

What actually works to keep the weight off: There's a lot of talk, but not a lot of hard data, to show which weight-loss and weight maintenance strategies are actually effective. Fortunately, an article published last year in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity sheds some light on the subject using a fairly straightforward strategy: asking successful dieters.

Adolescents low in fruits and vegetables: We've known for a while that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Since healthy eating habits are most easily set early in life, childhood and adolescent eating habits are becoming an important topic in dietary research.

Fruits and vegetables for prostate health: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) happens to almost all men as they age. It's a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate whose most common symptom is difficulty in urination. Usually it's not a serious problem, but it can affect the sufferer's quality of life. Just how much someone's life is affected by their BPH symptoms is measured by a standard questionnaire called the American Urological Association Symptom Index (AUASI). The higher the score on the questionnaire, the more the patient is bothered by their symptoms.

Like parents, like kids: Experts in pediatrics have identified four important activity and dietary recommendations for children's health. They are: Total fat intake of less than 30% of caloric intake per day; 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity; watching television (including video games and the like) for less than two hours per day; and eating at least five servings per day of fruits and vegetables.

Ads can affect your attitudes about food: Researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans note in a recent study that Louisiana's rates of obesity are high above the national average of 32%. In an effort to improve New Orleanian's attitudes and behaviors toward eating healthy and becoming more active through walking, in 2005 the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the City of New Orleans created an advertising campaign called "Steps to a Healthier New Orleans".

Weight Loss Myths: I hear a lot of patients say things about eating healthy and losing weight that are simply not true. For the next few weeks I am going to share some of these myths with you and the truth behind them. Myth: Skipping a meal is a good way to diet and lose weight.

AlmondEat your fruits and vegetables and keep your mouth happy: Oral cancer, primarily a disease that occurs in men, was the seventh most common form of cancer—for both sexes—in 2002. Over 210,000 death are caused each year by oral cavity and pharynx cancers. The primary risk factors are well known and include chewing and/or smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol. Often nutritional and dietary deficiencies are linked to oral cancers, but recent research studies have sought to determine the effect of fruit and vegetable intake.

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.

The antioxidant effect of pomegranate juice: There is a great deal written about the protective effect of antioxidants these days. Because of high levels in fruits and juices their consumption tops the list of those with the most benefit. One fruit juice with an abundance of antioxidants is pomegranate juice (PJ).

Vitamin C from Fruits and Vegetables and Inflammation: Research shows that heart disease, strokes and other conditions are at least partly caused by inflammation. There are a number of markers in the blood that researchers use to evaluate inflammation, so there is naturally a great deal of interest in factors that may help decrease these inflammatory markers in the blood.

A healthy diet helps you avoid skin cancer: Cancer is caused by a multitude of factors, but one that we're sure of is cellular damage through oxidation. High levels of sun exposure causes this oxidative damage to skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer.

An apple a day.... I have previously written about research showing that there may be truth in the old adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." The investigations have been based on speculation that the antioxidants in apples help protect the body in some way. A group of researchers at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine are trying to find out how this may work.

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

Eating more CAN mean weighing less! Weight management is a simple mathematical formula: calories in must equal calories out. The simplest advice for weight loss, then, is to eat less. Easy for some people, but for most people simply eating less means feeling hungry and dissatisfied, especially when large portions of high-calorie foods are so widely available.

10 Things You Need to Know About Health Claims on Food Labels: The FDA allows health claims to be made on foods, but the assertion does have to meet certain criteria. The claims allowed fall into ten different categories based on a relationship between a certain nutrient or food and a risk of a particular disease or health related condition.

More interesting Mediterranean Diet research: Eating a Mediterranean diet has clearly been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Numerous studies have been completed, but most have compared the diet to a typical Western diet, as has a study reported in this week's Annals of Internal Medicine.

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.

Chocolate joy, chocolate guilt: A group of researchers were curious about what our emotional responses to chocolate are. They asked 37 women between the ages of 19 and 30 to eat either chocolate, an apple, or nothing twice a day over a 6 day period.

Pistachio Nuts Improve Cholesterol: Turkey is a Mediterranean country, and as such The Mediterranean Diet is common there. Researchers in Turkey noted that pistachio nuts are popular in areas from western Asia to Afghanistan and beyond, so they chose to focus their research on nut consumption and cholesterol on pistachios.

Snack right! A lot of health issues come from snacking and this is because many snack foods are very calorie dense (high calories for small portions). A sweet snack like a Kit Kat bar has 220 calories and 11 grams of fat, whereas only 6 Triscuits are 120 calories and 5 grams of fat. Most such snack foods have little nutritive value.

Yes, You Can Eat Red Meat (Just Not Every Day): My patients are always saying that they can't eat healthy because they like to eat red meat. Well, I like eating a good steak as much as the next person and I do. I don't eat red meat that often ' probably about 5 times a month or so.

Avoid Alzheimer's - drink your juice! Recent studies have suggested that antioxidant vitamins from fruits and vegetables (not from supplements) may help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Other than vitamins, the most abundant source of antioxidants in foods are substances known as polyphenols that are primarily found in the skin or rind of fruits and vegetables.

Calcium and Melons: Is your calcium intake low? Eating more foods high in calcium is important to a lot of people. Try using your melon!

More fruits and vegetables, less heart disease: I've written on many occasions about the positive effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on such conditions as oral cancer and gallbladder disease (09/12/06), as well as contributing disease factors like inflammatory markers and DNA oxidation. A recent French meta-analysis of the results of several prospective studies has specifically examined the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Eating A Mediterranean Diet Reduces Your Risk Of Becoming Obese: I have written extensively on how a Mediterranean style diet can help prevent disease. A group of researchers using information gathered in Spain about dietary patterns looked at how a diet that closely adheres to the Mediterranean patterns affects weight gain.

Eat your antioxidants: People often rely on vitamin supplements to make up for their poor diets. This is especially true now that we know that some vitamins, such as antioxidants (vitamins E, C, or beta-carotene) or B vitamins, have been shown in the lab to help prevent such conditions as cancer, heart disease, and high cholesterol. But are the supplements actually having the same impact as a diet that contains more vitamins through diet alone?

More reason to eat nuts: I've reported in the past about the positive effects of nuts (specifically pistachio nuts) on cholesterol. It seems that almonds may have a positive effect on your risk of cardiovascular disease (CHD) or diabetes.

Size Does Matter: Many diet plans and diet books for years have recommended using small plates to make it look like you are eating more. This concept was put to the test by two researchers, Brian Wansink and Matthew Cheney. In a research letter published by the Journal of the American Medical Association they showed that the size of serving bowls makes a difference on the amount people eat.

Key Flavors, Mouthfeel, and Developing Recipes: When I am being interviewed for television or other media I am often asked about how I go about making recipes healthier. There are two basic goals. One is to reduce the number of calories (along with saturated fat and sodium). The other is to create a recipe that is a satisfying portion size.

Eating Well and Eating Healthy On The Road: Patients will often tell me that they can't eat healthy when traveling. This comes from people who only travel occasionally for pleasure as well as those who make a living on the road. Just as with eating at home, planning is the key to eating healthy on the road. Thinking about what and when you are going to eat beforehand makes all the difference.

Airport Food: I recently sat across from a fellow flyer who during the course of a five hour flight consumed well over 1,500 calories. Pretty much everything eaten was junk picked up on the fly in the airport in addition to every snack offered by the airline. It's a shame because there's many better choices available in the airport.