From your health and wellness experts at Prisma Health

What can a dietitian learn from living in Europe for ten years?

Apex Athletic Performance
You guessed it! I learned about the Mediterranean diet. This healthy style of eating seen in many European communities has finally found its way into mainstream American cuisine and people are starting to take notice of its many health benefits and ease in food preparation. If you struggle with weight, high blood sugar and high cholesterol, you can make some easy changes that will benefit your health, mind and even longevity.

Buying locally grown vegetables in season is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet: During February in South Carolina, choose collard or turnip greens, beets, parsley, cilantro and leeks to add to your roasted vegetable recipes and season them with fresh herbs. Use garlic liberally, to bring out the strong flavors of these vegetables.

Few fruits are grown in South Carolina during the winter months, so to get the phytonutrients from this style of eating in the South, you need to rely on dried fruits like figs, cherries and frozen berries. Then buy oranges, pomegranates and pears from local markets. In this style of eating, fresh fruits are consumed as desserts or snacks, or as toppings on lightly sweetened pastry or cake.

Olive Oil
Olive oil is a core ingredient in the Mediterranean style of cooking and eating. It has a distinct flavor, so I recommend that my patients use it sparingly as a dipping sauce to whole grain breads, as a dressing over salads or paired with garlic in sauces. Use it instead of butter to sauté vegetables and fish.

Whole Grains
Traditional European meals include whole grain bread. Eating dishes that include whole grains like farro, barley, brown rice, bulgur, quinoa and polenta has benefits such as improving gut health and function and lowering blood sugar levels. Grains are often served as side dishes, stuffed into peppers or eggplant or used in stews.

Omega 3-rich fish is consumed regularly in the coastal regions of Europe because it is so plentiful. Here, try farm-raised trout and prepare it by lightly dusting with cornmeal or flour and pan fry it in olive oil. Look for recipes that highlight low-fat fish preparation to help decrease your intake of red meat throughout the week, which lowers cholesterol.

Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds can be mixed into salads and rice dishes, but use them sparingly because they are high-calorie. There are many recipes within this eating style that include pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or pistachios.

Beans and Legumes
Chickpeas, cannellini beans, lentils and a large white bean called Gigantes Plaki are used in Greek cuisine. These are similar to our lima beans, so get creative with your recipes to give them a Mediterranean twist. Remember, peanuts are phytonutrient-rich legumes, so try a peanut sauce with your roasted chicken.

The Mediterranean style of eating can help you reduce processed foods like chips and cookies in your diet while increasing your intake of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. I always tell patients, “It’s not what you’re eating, it’s what you’re NOT eating” that can make the biggest difference in your health.” I believe adopting this style of eating can make the biggest difference in your health this year. Visit this website to learn more. 

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Serving Columbia and Lexington, Apex Athletic Performance has a comprehensive and scientific approach to athletic training and exercise, which includes nutritional assessments. For more information, visit their website or call 803-296-9202.

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