By Sara J. Pluta

Diets, cleanses, fasts, eat this, don’t eat that, butter is bad, wine is good, carbs make you fat, fat makes you skinny, eat like a cave man, stay away from soy, devour meat at every meal, avoid all animal products entirely…the plethora of nutrition advice on every web page, book cover, magazine spread, newspaper headline, etc. is overwhelming and downright confusing! Diets sell, remember that. People want to be told what to eat or what not to eat and authors and food companies know this. Look at the present craze of Paleo or the low-carb obsession years ago. Did you bite the bait?

What is a well-intentioned, health-seeking person to do? We can easily become brainwashed into compliance, or write off nutrition advice altogether and head straight for the vending machine or fast food joint. But hang tight, it turns out researchers asked if one diet could be hailed superior in terms of health outcomes. When scholars compared every major diet (low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, Paleolithic, vegan, etc.) and published studies, the outcome was remarkably straightforward. The winner is….REAL food, with a diet set to broader, more individualized guidelines. Say goodbye to rigid principles and strict guidelines and say hello to a variety of wholesome, real food.

I know, I know…eating whatever tastes good is enjoyable. However, if we can eat what tastes good and nourish our bodies and minds, then we are creating a recipe for health and overall well-being; Success!

It is proven that what we consume on a regular basis really does make a difference in our quality of life, life span, and prevention or decrease in risk of most chronic disease. Put simply, a diet of minimally processed foods as close to nature as possible, heavy on plants, light on animal protein, and void of preservatives and additives, is absolutely associated with health promotion and disease prevention.

When heart disease became a problem during the 20th century in the Americas, researchers studying the cause of heart disease found that people living around the Mediterranean Sea had very little heart disease comparatively and began to look at the way these populations ate.

In tune with the idea that no diet is superior, the Mediterranean diet is more of a way of eating, compiling traditional eating habits of people living in Spain, Italy, Greece, France and the Middle East.

The Mediterranean diet stands the test of time and falls in line with the criteria of whole food emphasis. This diet is a gold standard and the healthfulness of the Mediterranean dietary pattern continues to receive strong backing through nutrition research and by large epidemiological studies published in hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles.

Let’s look at some highlights of this delicious and nutritious way of eating:

* Eat natural, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, olives and olive oil as the base of all meals.

* Make olive oil your primary source of dietary fat.

* Reduce the consumption of red meat to a few times monthly. Instead, focus on heart-healthy fish and shellfish, such as tuna, herring, sardines, salmon,   clams, and shrimp, eaten several times a week.

* Cheese and yogurt are eaten regularly, but in low to moderate amounts. The calcium can be good for bone and heart health.

* Nuts, legumes and seeds are a good source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. These are ideal additions for flavor and texture.

* Focus on herbs and spices for flavor. This helps to lessen the use of salt and fat when cooking. Not only do they taste great, but they are loaded with antioxidants and healing benefits.

* Eggs add protein and nutrients like vitamin E and brain-supportive choline. Eat alone or add to baked goods.

* Limit sweets and focus on fresh fruits loaded with vitamins and fiber.

* Drink moderate amounts of wine (one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women). Yes, that’s correct, you can drink wine!

* Get regular exercise.

Not too bad, right? The Mediterranean way of eating is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Taking into consideration the above guidelines, one could quite easily create healthy, delicious meals 24/7, 365 days a year and never get bored or burned out on measuring, eliminating favorite foods, counting calories, eating bland low-fat foods, forcing huge chunks of meat down, or skipping that lovely glass of Pinot with dinner. Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t. Countless studies show the benefits of basic compliance.

One of the largest studies, PREDIMED, made headlines in 2013 for having caused a substantial reduction in cardiovascular disease. It took 7,447 individuals who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease and randomized them into three groups: A Mediterranean Diet with added extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean Diet with added nuts, and a low-fat control group. The study lasted almost five years and the participants were not asked to reduce calories or increase exercise.

Some of the findings include:

* The risk of combined heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease was reduced by 30% in the Med + Olive Oil group, and 28% in the Med + Nuts group.

* People with high blood pressure, lipid problems or obesity responded the best.

* The levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol decreased with statistical significance in both Med groups, but not in the low-fat group.

* The Mediterranean Diet reduced the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 52%.

* The Mediterranean Diet showed significant improvements in various cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood sugar levels, blood pressure, total HDL cholesterol ratio, and C – reactive protein (CRP).

* The risk of stroke was reduced by 39% (31% Med + Olive Oil and 47% Med + Nuts).

What about weight loss, the number one reason people choose a diet? While the Mediterranean Diet is not a weight loss diet per se, it is a healthy whole one that will often result in reduction of weight, should the individual need that. To encourage this, eating small, balanced meals throughout the day will help your body maximize the nutrition you feed it and keep the metabolic fire stoked. More significantly though, a Mediterranean Diet is the foundation of heart health, helps balance blood sugar, provides ample amounts of macro and micro nutrients, and is enjoyable to the senses. Think of all the delectable meals you can put together or dine out on with a basis of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and olive oil, sprinkled with Omega-3 rich seafood, decadent cheese, and a glass of your favorite vino. Let’s toast to health, happiness, and delicious eating!

[article reposted with permission from]

By Nick Noloboff

Even though humans are at the very top of the food chain, there’s no escaping the risks of this interconnected hierarchy. In fact, there’s a kind of natural justice in being vulnerable to the life led by your food. All the elements that were consumed by the animal you’re now eating—nutrients, chemicals, minerals, etc.—have made their way to you. So it’s worth repeating just how important it is to take care of our food sources, and to make wise choices about what we eat.

One overlooked chapter in the story of our food is the role of fat. On one hand, dietary fats have played a pretty ominous part in our recent history: Heart disease. High cholesterol. Metabolic syndrome. Saturated fats proliferate in many of the foods we eat, even now that their adverse health effects are known. On the other hand, a different kind of fat, essential omega-3 fats, quietly disappeared from our diets without anyone really knowing they were there to begin with.

The short of it is that we’re eating way too much meat and foods filled with seed oils, and not enough (or not the right) fish. This imbalance has less to do with conscious food choices than it does with changes to the agriculture, livestock and seafood industries over the past 50 years. But first, let’s talk about the fish you’re not eating.

Go wild with fish

Until recently, nearly all the fish we ate was taken from the wild, where the smallest fish consume microalgae, nature’s original source of marine omega-3 fats. Larger fish eat those small fish, getting all the omega-3 fats of their prey. This process works its way up the food chain until it lands on your plate as a delicious fillet of sockeye salmon. But increasingly, you have to seek out “wild-caught” fish. The alternative is farmed fish that are raised on fishmeal which is devoid of omega-3s. Plus, wild-caught fish costs more. So people eat less wild fish, and get fewer essential omega-3 fats.

Before wild fish became pricey, meat became cheaper, as economies of scale turned pasture-raised cows into grain-fed cattle. Similar to farmed fish, these livestock get far fewer omega-3 fats than they would by eating their natural diet of grass, and much more of another essential fat, omega-6, which is found in the grain and corn diets of feedlot cattle. Add to this change in the fat composition of meats the proliferation of seed oils in just about everything else we eat—dressings, processed foods, cooking oils, you name it—and you wind up with an abundance of omega-6 and a dearth of omega-3. A big fat mess, so to speak.

It seems that the obvious answer is to eat more wild-caught fish, and greens, but that’s just half of the solution. It’s true that we all need to consume more omega-3s, but we also need to radically cut back on sources of omega-6 to balance our intake of essential fats. Here’s why: Omega-3 and omega-6 fats both reside in cell membranes where they perform a variety of functions that are vital to health. But space in cell membranes is limited, and with so much omega-6 in our bloodstreams, it has a much better chance than omega-3 of getting incorporated into cells simply because it’s more prevalent.

Supplement with Omega-3s

Until the 1970s, few people outside of Scandinavia recognized the health benefits of omega-3 fish oil. Today, over 8,000 clinical studies have documented omega-3s’ effects on health, yet Americans remain woefully undernourished in these fats. At least 90 percent of Americans are deficient, according to a 2015 report issued by the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Committee.

Although we now know how important omega-3s are, we have a tougher and tougher time getting them into our diets. One sure way to get more is to supplement with a high-quality fish or algae oil. Both of these sources naturally contain the long-chain marine omega-3 fats that are essential for health. Supplementing also ensures a consistent daily intake, even when you eat a few healthy servings of wild-caught fish each week.

[article reposted with permission from]

fish , omega-3 , fats , health , wellness