Mediterranean Diet – A Winner for 2021
High in vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and seafood, the Mediterranean Diet again ranked #1 in the annual review by U.S. News & World Report. The diet limits red meat, saturated fats, and sugar. A wealth of research indicates healthful benefits for cardiovascular wellness, cancer prevention, and longevity.
Good for the biome and more
Harvard Health explains that this healthy eating plan has a positive impact on the gut microbiome. Among older adults who followed the plan for a year, “the gut microbiome was changed in ways that previous studies have shown is associated with a lower risk of bowel cancer, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, and cell damage, and associated with improved thinking skills,” they report.
Additional research indicates the diet may slow progression of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure, reduce risk of Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, lower risk of diabetes, and lower risk of cognitive impairment, according to Oldways, which aggregates research findings about nutrition and health.
Connecting to consumer trends
Since the pandemic began, some consumers began seeking out healthier foods to support their overall health and their immune function. For example, the IFIC reported than in 2020, 42% of consumers shifted to “clean eating,” limiting sugars, or making other healthful diet changes. About 4 out of 10 stated a desire to eat specifically to boost immunity. Harvard Health explains that the Mediterranean Diet can boost immune health through its effect on the microbiome.
What’s in the Mediterranean Diet
While promoting high intake of fiber and phytonutrients with a heavily plant-based approach, the meal plan favors seafood, high in omega 3s, and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), over red meat and poultry. In an easy-to-use food pyramid, Oldways places red meats and sweets at the tip for limited consumption. Next are poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. A larger category is fish and seafood, recommended for at least twice a week, matching advice from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The largest category is a mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and EVOO.
Mediterranean Diet: menu ideas
You can tap into consumers’ desire for wellness by calling out menu offerings that are Mediterranean Diet-friendly. Have you tried the Tuna Taco Bowl recipe? Featuring tuna, avocado, black beans, red cabbage, apples, and EVOO, it’s a potpourri of healthy ingredients that come together with zesty flavor and plate appeal. The Tuna Falafel recipecombines chickpeas with tuna, arugula, cucumber, and cabbage for a festive treat. You can use whole-grain pita bread to boost the wellness factor. For more culinary inspiration, visit the Chicken of the Sea foodservice recipe center.