Tag: diet

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.



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


prevent heart disease

Prevent Heart Disease: Ways Less Often Discussed

February is a great time to focus on the heart.

Earlier in the month, we marked Valentine’s Day – a time to celebrate love, be kind to others and be kind to ourselves. We get to connect and reflect on feelings within the heart. However, it is also a great time to literally reflect on your physical heart and its wellbeing. In fact, February is officially Heart Health Month.

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States?

It affects both men and women…and thankfully it can be prevented! There are the obvious ways to prevent heart disease: don’t smoke, eat an anti-inflammatory low grain diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercise. Is there more you can do? I’d like to explore some of the less talked about ways to prevent heart disease.

Start by looking at the word disease. Break that word down and it is dis-ease. In other words, NOT ease. So at least a part of heart disease is related to not being in a state of ease. Stress plays a huge role in heart disease, often causing an increase blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms and increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol. So start with managing your stress as the first step to prevent heart disease.


Stress Reducers


Remember meditation is not a one-time activity. It takes practice. No one tries it once and achieves a state of clear-minded calmness. Try downloading a guided meditation app. Start with a short, 5-minute guided meditation and go from there. Daily practice can lower blood pressure, improve mood and reduce damaging stress hormones in the body.



Another alternative to meditation is biofeedback. Biofeedback is the process of gaining greater awareness of physiological functions by using instruments that provide information on the activity of those same systems, with a goal of being able to manipulate them at will. I love the products from Heart Math Institute. They have a device called the EmWave which helps to raise your awareness of when you are in a stressful state. The technology then helps you to shift back into a more relaxed and content state. The company has similar technologies as a phone app that couple with an ear sensor.



Yoga is a great way to relieve stress through centeredness, focus and calming breath work.


RELATED: Ten Wonderful Ways Yoga Improves Your Health 


Slowing down  

The reality is that the world is on fast forward these days. But just because things seem to happen at lightning speed these days does not mean that you have to keep up that pace. Plan some time to relax for a bit every single day, no matter how busy you are. Give yourself permission to say no when you want or sense that you need to say no.


Be true to your heart  

People are simply less stressed and more resilient when they are living their life congruent with their own values. When our actions are in alignment with our authentic selves – our purpose and values – life just seems less stressful even when there are challenges. Keep this in mind.


Nutritional Considerations

prevent heart diseaseReduce sugar

In a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine in January 2014, researchers found that the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of sugar in one’s diet. This was regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level and body-mass index (a measure of weight).

My advice is to avoid the obvious worst offenders! We hear a lot about what we should eat, but do you realize the true damage occurring when you make poor choices? Know the worst offenders and steer clear of them.


Stay hydrated

It probably seems like I think hydration is the answer for every health issue. The truth is, it impacts a great deal of our health. Staying hydrated allows the heart to pump the blood through the vessels more easily, allows the heart muscles to work more efficiently and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.


Drink red wine

A single glass of red wine each day will give you a good dose of resveratrol, which lowers cholesterol, reduces risk of blood clots and prevents damage to blood vessels. One glass is enough to gain benefits – but keep it to one glass most days.



Finally, we can’t talk about heart disease prevention without at least mentioning supplements. There are many great ones you can take for heart health, but I have narrowed it down to what I would consider the top three most important.

  1. CoQ10 – Take 200 mg daily if you are over 50 years of age or on a statin drug. Otherwise, take 100 mg. The heart is constantly working and never takes a break as long as you are living. This requires a lot of energy for the heart muscles. CoQ10 is critical for the mitochondria in the heart muscle cells to make energy so they can keep working. As you age, you are less able to make CoQ10. Statin drugs deplete your CoQ10.  
  2. Omega 3’s – Omega 3’s turn down your inflammatory pathways. Since inflammation is tied to all chronic diseases of aging including plaquing of the arteries, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, Omega 3’s are just what the doctor ordered in lowering the risk of heart disease. Eat plenty of Omega 3-packed fish too! To learn if you are deficient in Omega 3, we can test you.
  3. Magnesium –  This supplement lowers blood pressure, helps the heart to beat more regularly and improves sleep. It is a great distress-type of nutrient.

I hope this blog has helped you to zero in on a least a few strategies to prevent heart disease! Be kind to yourself and have a great February.

Dr. Sharman