When two of my best friends died at very young ages, I was crushed and bewildered by their unexpected losses. So, I delved into the reasons for their illnesses and subsequent deaths. Soon it became clear to me that modern medicine does not have all the answers and unless we take control of our bodies, we might not reach old age.
Through my extensive studies, I've discovered that people living in Mediterranean countries are healthier than Americans. They have almost half as many deaths from cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity as us. So, if the Mediterranean diet has worked for its people for centuries in protecting them from chronic diseases plaguing us now, why not copy it?
The good news is: if you start emulating the lifestyle of the Mediterranean world now, you will attain newfound health. Here's how...
1. Watch what type of fuel you feed your body
Why do many people buy Super gasoline even though it's more expensive? If they bought the least expensive gas they could save a lot of money. But only in the short run. Car engines run more efficiently with high-quality fuels and the parts deteriorate much faster when you use cheap fluids.
Like your car, your body is comprised of different parts and your heart is the engine. The fuel you use to keep your heart and other body parts running makes a difference in your performance, whether you're at work, at school, or with your family. The Mediterranean diet is proven to be the best fuel available to keep our parts running well until old age.
2. Cut down on processed foods and load up with fruits and vegetables
To have a healthy heart like the Mediterraneans, and maintain normal blood pressure, your diet should be five times higher in potassium than in sodium. Unfortunately in the typical American diet, the amount of sodium is five times higher than potassium.
Why do we have it so backwards? Because seventy-five percent of the salt we eat comes from processed foods. And, since the American public consumes an excessive 4,000mg of sodium per day, the American Public Health Association recently called for a 50 percent sodium reduction in our nation s food supply over the next ten years. It s estimated that such a reduction would save at least 150,000 lives annually.
By eating fruits and vegetables, you are also replacing other foods in your meal that may be high in sodium. Plus fruits and vegetables provide high amounts of potassium, calcium and magnesium so you can have a normal heart beating and low blood pressure.
3. Give yourself a daily dose of olive oil
Butter is rarely consumed in the traditional Mediterranean diet and margarine was completely unknown in the area until recently. People in the Mediterranean countries use extra virgin olive oil, one of the best sources of monounsaturated fat, the kind of fat that does not stick to your arteries. Extra virgin olive oil is also an excellent source of many antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Many people take vitamin E in capsules thinking that they can get the same health results. However, studies have shown that capsules can never replace the real thing. Researchers for the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation Study found that people who received 265 milligrams of vitamin E daily in the form of supplements did not have fewer hospitalizations for heart failure when compared to those who received a placebo. That's why nutrition authorities recommend 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day as prevention.
4. Eat more legumes
By legumes, I mean dry beans, lentils, chickpeas and garbanzo beans. Legumes, a staple food in the Mediterranean diet for centuries, are packed with fiber as well as minerals such as iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, folic acid and some of the B-complex vitamins. They are low in fat and sodium.
Legumes are also very high in soluble fiber that helps you easily get rid of your cholesterol. And to top it all, legumes can help balance your budget because they are very inexpensive. If legumes are not part of your regular diet, you are missing an almost perfect food.
5. Eat more aromatic herbs, garlic and onions
To add the Mediterranean flavor to your meals, replace salt with garlic and aromatic herbs. Garlic is a truly wonder of nature. It has been used for thousands of years as both food and medicine. People around the world, especially those who enjoy few chronic heart diseases, use it extensively in their daily diets.
Why? Because, more than 200 chemical compounds that might protect our bodies have been found in garlic. It has recently been shown that garlic can significantly reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, lower blood pressure and prevent the formation of blood clots. It can also protect our bodies through its antioxidant properties.
Onions and other aromatic herbs work very similar to garlic. They contain about 25 active compounds that appear to help combat heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Scientific studies have associated good health not only with the ingestion of healthy foods, but also with a lifestyle linked to family life, leisure time, regular physical activity and traditional habits such as taking a nap. A 10 to 15 minute nap at midday will help keep stress at bay. So why not take 15 minutes after you're done eating and have a snooze?
Follow my tips and you will live longer and stronger.