Mediterranean diet

Wine…drink a little, live longer?

Wine…drink a little, live longer?

Eating a Mediterranean diet is known to have a positive effect on heart health. It could also add years to your life.

Scientists have been trying to understand why. We’re pretty sure it has to do with the total regime – lots of vegetables and fruits, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, small amounts of meat and a moderate amount of wine.

A recent Greek study tried to determine how each separate component of the diet contributed to a longer life.

Results showed that a moderate amount of wine with meals made the biggest contribution to lower mortality.

Eating a small amount of meat and a lot of vegetables had the next biggest influence.

Lots of fruits and nuts was next, followed by eating olive oil and legumes.

Eating a lot of grains and a small amount of dairy made a minimal contribution.

Fish consumption had an insignificant effect on longevity.

Before you reach for a bottle of wine, remember that this is just one study based on recall. It could just be that alcohol intake was easier to remember than vegetable intake. (How much wine did you drink last week? How many vegetables did you eat?)

Most important, it’s still the cumulative effect of all of the components of the Mediterranean diet that made the biggest impact on health.

With so many wonderful kosher wines on the market, here’s another reason to enjoy a small glass with dinner. But don’t forget your vegetables!

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Skin and Bones – Can Diet Help?

Nutrition professionals from around the world recently met in Tel Aviv for a conference focusing on the Mediterranean diet. We know that the Mediterranean diet can help improve health and prevent disease. There were sessions on heart disease, cancer and healthier aging.

Of special interest –

Does the Mediterranean diet help protect against skin cancer? Can it improve bone health?

We all know about the importance of wearing sunscreen to protect against skin cancer. But diet may also help against the sun’s harmful rays. Research points to the possible role of antioxidants as “internal” protectors of the skin. And the Mediterranean diet, high in vegetables, fruit, fish, olive oil and red wine, is certainly high in antioxidants.

What about bone health? Most of us are familiar with the role of calcium and exercise in building and maintaining strong bones. Numerous studies also point to a connection between eating lots of fruits and vegetable and good bone health.

Professor Alessandro Laviano from Rome stated it pretty clearly –

“You are what you eat.” And for overall good health, the Mediterranean diet makes nutritional and delicious sense.”

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Is the Mediterranean Diet for You?

The Mediterranean diet can help protect you from heart disease and cancer. It can contribute to healthier aging and increase longevity, even when started later in life. It’s a diet rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
Obviously a very healthy way to eat!

Just keep a few things in mind:

The parts work together as a whole. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet works to reduce disease when the various elements are combined. It’s true that each component of the diet is good. But you can’t just pick one or two things that appeal to you, ignore the rest and expect to get terrific results.

Don’t rule out foods from other cultures. Asian soy foods and greens are healthy and delicious. From South America we have the nutritious combination of beans and whole grains. India gives us an array of legumes and spiced vegetables, and from the Middle East, chick peas, fava beans and techina all contribute to a healthy diet. Choose the best from your favorite cuisines.

It’s about life-style, not just diet. Physical activity is essential! (Take a look at the base of the Mediterranean diet pyramid above.) So is portion control. And thoughtful, relaxed eating is part of any healthy-eating plan. What’s important is that you eat good-for-you foods that work best for you and your family.

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The Mediterranean Diet – Greek or Israeli?

When health professionals talk about the Mediterranean diet, we’re referring to a pattern of eating found in the late 1950′s and early 60′s in the olive growing areas of the Mediterranean.

Countries like Greece, Spain and southern Italy. Before “fast food” got there.

Every country had its own variation of the diet, but the common elements were:

Lots of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits

Legumes, nuts and seeds

Whole grains

Olive oil as the main source of fat

Moderate amounts of wine, fish and dairy products (mainly cheese and yogurt)

Very little red meat

Can Israel claim the Mediterranean diet as well?

In the Tanach, the Land of Israel is described as

“[A] Land of wheat, barley, grape, fig and pomegranate; a Land of olive oil and date honey.” (Devarim 8:8)

“…a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Shemot 3:8)

Here we have the seven species – including whole grains, fruit, olive oil and wine. Add (goat’s) milk, which was most likely made into yogurt.

It sounds like the Mediterranean diet started right here!

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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