The Mediterranean Diet (cont.)

And the wide variety of delicious foods makes it easier to stick to the Mediterranean diet for the long term. But even on a diet full of healthy foods, it's important to watch portions -- especially for higher-calorie foods like nuts and olive oil.

"Calories and portions still count, even when they are healthy," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "For example, olive and canola are good for the heart but hard on the waistlines because all oils contain 120 calories per tablespoon."

It's important to remember that the Mediterranean diet is not a quick weight loss diet, but a way of life. Almost as important as the food is regular physical activity and leisurely dining -- taking pleasure and time to savor meals with friends and family. The multiple factors at work in the Mediterranean lifestyle, Agatston says, provide health benefits that "work together and cannot be replaced."

Depending on your calorie level, following a Mediterranean diet plan with controlled portions could result in slow and lasting weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week.

Mediterranean Diet: What the Experts Say

The Mediterranean diet comes highly recommended by nutrition experts.

"We are all advocating for a high-quality diet rich in nutrients," Eckel says. "The only gray area is how much healthy unsaturated fat and my recommendation is to stick with the guideline of 30%-35% of calories and make most of those monounsaturated fats."

The Mediterranean style of eating is also enjoyable, says Columbia University nutrition researcher Wahida Karmally, DrPH, RD. "The Mediterranean diet is a healthful and delicious way of promoting weight loss," she says.

Family practice physician Rod Ono, MD, says he uses the Mediterranean diet as a template to help his patients move away from the typical American diet toward a healthier one. He notes that even a partial switch to a Mediterranean style of eating can be beneficial.

"You can still gain the health benefits if you incorporate more of the foods on the Mediterranean diet into your weekly planning," he says.

Eckel notes that exercise is an important part of the equation. He suggests following federal guidelines that call for exercising at least 30 minutes five times a week (or daily), including resistance training twice a week.

"Physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle but during weight loss, focus more on reducing the amount of food consumed and once you reach your goal weight, fire up the exercise portion," he says.

Mediterranean Diet: Food for Thought

There are many health benefits of following a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- and weight loss is just one of them.

The Mediterranean diet is free of gimmicks. It has clearly been shown to be a healthy, sustainable diet that can help you trim your waistline in addition to a preventing a host of chronic diseases.

Enjoying the bounty of delicious foods on a Mediterranean-style diet should take feelings of deprivation out of the equation, and make losing weight easier and more sustainable.

SOURCES:

Robert H. Eckel, MD, professor of medicine, Colorado Denver School of Medicine; director, Lipid Clinic, University of Denver.

Rod Ono, MD, family practitioner, Hawaii.

Wahida Karmally, DrPH, RD, nutrition researcher, Columbia University.

K. Dun Gifford, president, Oldways Preservation.

Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association. Arthur Agatston, MD, cardiologist; author, The South Beach Diet Supercharged.

New England Journal of Medicine, July 17, 2008, vol. 359:229-241.

American Heart Association web site.

Reviewed on January 07, 2010


Last Editorial Review: 1/7/2010 8:13:27 PM

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