The Healthy Mediterranean Diet: Omega-3s and Phytonutrients

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

One of the most natural ways for women to achieve health and wellness is through a nutritious diet that includes protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. When we think about fat, we want our diets to resemble the centuries old Mediterranean style of eating, not the recent fast-food or crash diet styles of eating that are popular today.

If you have concerns about fat in your diet leading to weight gain, or about the potential side effects of omega-3 supplements, please know that healthy fats are actually vital to weight loss. They help to decrease inflammation, controlling blood glucose levels and facilitate the functioning of blood vessels, so nutritional uptake is maximized. This works to reduce our cravings and it resets our metabolism. These are important factors in maintaining weight in a healthy range. For more information, read our article, “Balancing Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Essential For Health and Long Life.”

In past generations, people consumed a diet that was healthy, mostly because there was no other choice. Chemically preserved and processed foods which are readily available today didn’t exist. Our ancestor’s omega-6 to omega-3 ratios were more balanced and were healthier. People today are being encouraged by their medical practitioners to eat in this healthier way. At Women to Women, we’ve been enjoying it for years.

There has been a lot of research completed and it has been found that eating Mediterranean-style is one of the most effective ways to work natural omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and phytonutrients into your diet.

The Mediterranean diet is really about a way of life. Its emphasis is on fresh, whole foods instead of processed, prepackaged or preserved foods. Meals are to be enjoyed at your leisure, and with friends and family whenever possible. It may seem like you’ve heard this before, but if not, and this is all new information, the change can be very simple and the benefits are remarkable. Try to remember the benefits aren’t the result of one food in particular, but from the pattern of eating as a whole. The general guidelines to a Mediterranean-style of eating are:

  • Try to get plenty of brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables every day
  • Any kind of peas or beans are recommended (Legumes)
  • Whole grains are excellent
  • Walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed (1-1.5 ounce or ¼ to 1/3 cup daily)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (keep this in the refrigerator if you can)
  • Grass fed and lean meats, free-range poultry – this has little to zero saturated fats
  • Red wine in moderate amounts if desired – one drink per day for women
  • Avoid all trans-fats – includes anything that is “partially hydrogenated” like margarine

The guidelines of the Mediterranean diet are so relaxed. The focus is not so much on how the food is prepared, but on how bright and how fresh it is. It’s easy to enjoy because it’s so simple and delicious. If you only try one of the ideas listed above at a time, you will see health benefits over time. It’s never too late to reap the rewards of making even the smallest of changes.