Tag: health

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


antioxidant superfoods

15 Antioxidant superfoods (and why you should eat them)

Have you ever heard the phrase “food is medicine”?

Well, food CAN be medicine. We each need a variety of vitamins, minerals, good fats, enzymes, proteins and antioxidants from foods. These essential nutrients from foods allow our body to stay healthy and fight. They can help us fend off illness and slow the development of chronic conditions of aging. Certain foods, called Superfoods, are especially unique in that they are packed with a large amount and variety of these healthy nutrient building blocks.

Everyone can reap the benefits when they make these antioxidant superfoods a part of their regular diet. Read up on them when you can…but in the meantime, here are my top 15 superfoods with the reasons you should be eating them:



Blueberries are low in calories and high in nutrients and a great source of fiber…and who doesn’t need more fiber in their diet? They are high in vitamins K and C and antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which have been associated with improving memory and brain function as well as reducing risk cancer. Blueberries also turn down your inflammatory pathways. Studies show blueberries may reduce risk of heart disease and cancer and even improve memory!



On the whole, Americans don’t consume enough green leafy vegetables. People can benefit from eating more salads but kale is an exceptionally nutritious leafy option – so be sure to throw some in your salad. It can also be sautéed and served as a side vegetable. Kale has more antioxidants than most other fruits and veggies, has all essential amino acids and is a good source of fiber, iron and calcium.



Cabbage contains a large amount of indoles, which have been shown to reduce risk of cancer. It also stimulates the immune system. Remember the anthocyanins from the blueberries? Well, if you go for the red cabbage, you’ll also get a dose of those anthocyanins.



Cruciferous vegetables are known for their health benefits but broccoli contains more Vitamin C and folate than the others. Broccoli has several anti-cancer compounds and is a great source of fiber.



Did you know that chia seeds have more essential fatty acids than any known plant? They are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which lower inflammation. Chia seeds also contain the important minerals magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron.



Turmeric has amazing anti-inflammatory effects, can regulate blood sugar and regulate immune function. Although turmeric is full of minerals, it’s most powerful healing ingredient is curcumin.


antioxidant superfoodsGreen Tea

There is a simple reason drinking green tea is an ancient tradition that has stood the test of time. It is full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that fight cancer. Today, you’ll find green tea baked into foods, in smoothies and of course, in a traditional hot cup of tea.



Did you know that almonds have more nutrients than any other nut? They are a great source of fiber and magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. Almonds also contain vitamin E, a known antioxidant. The combination of monounsaturated fat and fiber in almonds has been shown to reduce cholesterol.  Finally, almonds are a blood sugar stabilizer because they contain a good balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat leading to a very slow rise in blood sugar. See why almonds made the superfood list?!



This one may surprise you. Mushrooms have been used in Chinese healing for years and can help prevent cancer – particularly Reishi and Chaga varieties. Eating mushrooms regularly can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.



Everyone is crazy for avocados these days…and for excellent reasons! Avocados are full of good fats and can help reduce heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Like almonds, they are good blood sugar stabilizers. They are also known to assist in blood and tissue regeneration. And they happen to taste fantastic!


Salmon, Sardines or Anchovies

These three fish are packed with omega 3 fatty acids, which turn down inflammatory pathways and slow or prevent chronic conditions of aging such as, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune illnesses. Omega 3s are vital for proper brain function and even for mood regulation. Most Americans are low in Omega 3s and are too high in Omega 6, keeping them systemically inflamed. This is so important to reverse, that we actually test Omega 6/Omega 3 ratios using our Brainspan test.

Note: Stay away from farm raised salmon, as it has many toxins, and look for wild caught Alaskan salmon.


RELATED: How to easily know your Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels



Eggs have more protein than any other food source…and they can be incorporated into your diet in so many easy ways. They contain a variety of necessary amino acids, and the yolks contain choline, which is important for brain function and is protective of the heart.


antioxidant superfoodsPomegranates

Pomegranates and their juice have been known for their anti-aging and cancer-reducing properties. They are #1 in antioxidants of all the fruit.  And pomegranates have even more antioxidants than green tea!



First, garlic reduces cholesterol. Second, because it is strongly antiviral and antibacterial, it also boosts immune function and helps to fight off infection. Finally, garlic can help detoxify the body of heavy metals. Who knew it could do more than ward off vampires?!



If you haven’t heard of maca, you’re not alone. Maca is a Peruvian root that packs a protein punch, is full of vitamins B1, B2, C and E and contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, sodium and iron. What makes maca so different from many other superfoods is that it is an adaptogen. This means it affects the body’s hormones in ways that help build stamina and endurance, deal with the effects of stress, improve sexual health and positively affect mood. Ask your local grocer to start carrying maca!


Dark chocolate and red wine

I’ve paired these together because everyone needs a little indulgence! Whether it is chocolate, red wine or both, these have great health benefits if eaten and drank in moderation. Dark chocolate (70 percent or higher) is anti-inflammatory, which helps to reduce pain. It contains both antioxidants and magnesium and can elevate your mood.  Red wine reduces blood clots, raises HDL (the good cholesterol) and contains the antioxidant resveratrol.


Are you ready to head to the grocery store and shop for some superfoods?

This is just a sample of the antioxidant superfoods out there that will provide the building blocks to keep you healthy, slow aging, reduce inflammation and prevent disease. Include a variety of these healthy whole foods in your diet – by themselves, in smoothies or as part of a recipe. Have fun and feel better by knowing what these superfoods can do for you!

Want even more superfoods? Dr. Mercola has a great list.


Dr. Sharman


Featured Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash