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how to eat a Mediterranean diet

How to Eat a Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet – you’ve likely heard of it but may not know why it’s popular, how it would benefit you or what to do to get started. The good news is that it’s not a fad diet – one that you try for a while and drop after reaching your goal (weight loss, cholesterol level reduction, etc.). What I love about it is that the Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle plan for eating and achieving wellness. Best of all, you can incorporate parts of it into your meals and still get some great benefits for your overall health and specific health conditions.

So let’s learn more about this lifestyle approach to eating.

 

The Diet Defined

how to eat a Mediterranean dietThe Mediterranean diet gets its name from the traditional cooking and eating style of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – Greece, Turkey, Israel and Spain…to name just a few. The diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating with fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. Specifically, the tenants of Mediterranean diet include:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, including legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flavoring foods with herbs and spices over salt
  • Only eating red meat a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, processed foods, refined grains and refined oils

As well, a part of this diet/lifestyle of eating includes enjoying meals with family and friends. I love this! Eating is pleasurable and it’s important to not eat in a hurry and grab things quickly. The emphasis on sharing meals helps us to focus on taking time to enjoy the food we eat. The diet also advocates drinking red wine in moderation and getting plenty of exercise. Many of the people in the countries from where this diet hails spend a lot of time walking each day rather than driving in a car.

 

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

As with most diets that focus on plant-based foods and steer clear of processed foods and unhealthy fats, you will likely lose weight. For those of us looking to trim back our weight, this eating lifestyle will help you do it while still enjoying many delicious foods.

Studies have shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease – so anyone with a preexisting heart condition or the genetics to develop a heart condition should consider this diet. As well, it’s been shown to help reduce the level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – what we often refer to as “bad” cholesterol – that can build up and eventually cause blocked arteries.

The Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, incidence of cancer and occurrence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. It may even reduce breast cancer in women, due to the emphasis on extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts. The bottom line is that most scientific organizations encourage this eating lifestyle as a preventive for many major diseases and to improve overall health and wellness.

There’s just not much to NOT love about it!

 

Getting Started with the Diet

It’s really not complicated to get started once you learn a little about the foods to include and exclude from this eating lifestyle.

What to eat

  • Generous helpings for various fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds – go beyond peanuts; think about almonds, walnuts, Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Legumes– seed or pod foods like beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas
  • Tubers – foods grown underground such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips
  • Whole grains
  • All kinds of seafood and fish at least twice a week
  • Poultry
  • Dairy – Greek yogurt, cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil plus other healthy fats like avocados
  • Herbs and spices –  garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper

Stick with whole, single-ingredient foods.

 

What not to eat

In general, processed and multi-ingredient foods are to be avoided. To know what to avoid, you’ll likely want to get in the habit of reading labels more carefully. Specifically, steer clear of:

  • Table sugar
  • Anything with added sugar – ice cream, sodas, candy
  • Refined grains – non-whole grain breads, cereal, pasta
  • Anything containing trans fats, especially margarine
  • Refined oils – canola, vegetable, soybean
  • Processed meats – hot dogs, lunch meats
  • Highly processed foods – made in a factory or labeled “diet”

 

A Word About Beverages

how to eat a Mediterranean dietYes, red wine is a staple in the diet of these Mediterranean countries. However, it’s meant to be consumed in moderation. Studies have connected wine with a reduced risk of heart disease in some research studies. So how much should you drink?

A moderate amount of wine means no more than 5 ounces of wine daily for women (or men over age 65), and no more than 10 ounces daily for men under age 65. This is about one glass per day.

Water is actually the main beverage in the Mediterranean diet. Coffee and tea are OK (both are made from water) but avoid any sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices.

 

Resources

Sample diets abound online – so if you’re not ready to invest in a cookbook, start here with some ideas for crafting your own Mediterranean meal plan. Some websites have downloadable cookbooks with recipe and meal planning ideas.

There are tons of cookbooks available – one of the best rated ones I came across is The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook. It contains over 500 recipes that have been kitchen-tested. And if you want to read more about this eating lifestyle and others from around the world, I highly encourage you to check out a fun website called Oldways. You will learn a great deal and come to appreciate how cultural food traditions can impact our health and wellness.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore….it can still be a very positive experience with significant benefits to your wellness.  If you switch to this eating lifestyle, be sure to let me know about your experience!

 

Dr. Sharman

 

chiropractic for headaches

Can Headaches Be Helped With Chiropractic Care?

Do you ever get headaches? If so, you’re not alone.

Nine out of ten people get headaches of some variety….frequent, infrequent, chronic, migraine and sadly, some completely debilitating. It’s a very common ailment.

People try lots of things to rid themselves of headaches, including taking various medications, lying down and simply powering through them until they go away. I’ve had patients ask me if chiropractic care can help their headaches – thankfully, the answer is YES!

But before I explain how, let’s start by talking about the common triggers for headaches.

 

What’s Causing Your Headache

Headaches can be caused or triggered by the environment, stress…even the foods you eat.

Environmental triggers can vary. Noises, lights, smells can all create conditions ripe for headaches to develop. Be aware of these factors when you get headaches and see if you can pinpoint your triggers (it will help you avoid them in the future).

Stress is known to create many health ailments in the body – so minimizing your stress levels by using relaxation techniques can help. Yoga, meditation and exercise are all proven ways people successfully keep their stress at bay.

Muscle tension is a big contributor to headaches these days – especially with how sedentary people are these days. Spending hours in front of a computer screen, fixed in one position and having poor posture can increase joint irritation and muscle tension, causing head and neck aches.

Certain foods, insomnia, dehydration, teeth-clenching and blood sugar changes are also headache contributors. Even excessive exercise can cause a headache! 95 percent of headaches can be traced back to some kind of trigger. Only 5 percent are warning signs of some other physical problem. So knowing your triggers and avoiding them at all costs is the best preventative.

 

How Chiropractic Care Can Help

The research supports chiropractic care, in particular, for certain types of headaches. A 2011 JMPT study found that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches.

Migraine headaches are now considered a neurological disease, which results in a severe throbbing recurring pain, usually on one side of the head. A headache can be accompanied by visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face.

Cervicogenic headaches, for those unfamiliar with the term, result in “referred pain” or pain perceived as occurring in a part of the body other than its true source. A cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache caused by another illness or physical issue. Its cause is a disorder of the cervical spine and the bony structures or soft tissues of the neck.

Keep in mind that chiropractic care is beneficial for prevention of headache episodes rather than the alleviation of symptoms once a chronic episode has begun.

When I work with patients, I am concerned with helping to correct any neuromusculoskeletal sources of a headache. This includes nerves, muscles and bones of the body. I perform a spinal exam to assess whether chiropractic care could alleviate the pain. I look for whether or not the headache may be caused, or aggravated by any misaligned vertebrae in the spine (subluxation) as that could be creating undue nerve interference.

If I determine that chiropractic care will help, I’ll recommend it. The type of spinal manipulation, frequency of manipulations and duration of treatment can vary. Any reputable chiropractor will take into consideration guidelines, his/her clinical experience and evidence-based findings.

The evidence for using spinal manipulation to relieve pain for patients with a tension-type headache remains questionable. While chiropractic care may help, we don’t have enough evidence to say this definitively.

 

Other Things Your Chiropractor May Recommend

As I mentioned earlier, the causes of headaches are varied – and by taking proactive steps, you may avoid having them altogether! I often provide my patients with nutritional advice and recommend dietary changes and the addition of B complex vitamins. As I’ve written about before, posture is a big part of avoiding all kinds of pain in the body – and focusing on improvements to posture and utilizing ergonomic supports can help stave off certain types of headaches. I often recommend relaxation and/or exercise as a lifestyle change to reduce the frequency of headaches my patients’ experience. Exercise, in particular, can stimulate the circulation of blood to the head and help to maintain neuromusculoskeletal flexibility.

RELATED: What Vitamins Should I Take – Getting the Essentials

 

Final Thoughts

Non-drug treatments may be the first choice for many patients – especially if they have a poor tolerance to medications, have experienced side effects or simply aren’t getting any relief from pharmacology. As well, if a patient is pregnant, nursing or simply has an aversion to medication, spinal manipulations from a licensed chiropractor may be a good option.

If you think you might benefit from chiropractic care – let me know! My staff can schedule an appointment where we can do a thorough exam and decide if chiropractic care may help with your headaches.

Dr. Sharman