legumes and beans

Ever heard of a small village called Acciaroli, Italy?

This laidback fishing town is known for its pristine beaches, cobblestone streets, and simple way of life.

The village may hold the secret to living a long and healthy life, too. About one-third of the people who live in Acciaroli are over 100 years old.

Why? Researchers believe it’s their diet and lifestyle.

You probably won’t be packing your bags to move to Italy anytime soon. But you can live like someone from this remote village to improve your health and live longer.

What does it take? A healthy way of eating has been part of life for people living near the Mediterranean Sea for centuries.

If you want to feel better, live longer and improve your health, eat these 9 foods to follow the Mediterranean Diet.

1. Fresh vegetables. Try carrots, onions, broccoli, spinach, kale, garlic, zucchini, and mushrooms. Aim for 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.

2. Fruit. Add to cereal, oatmeal, or salads. Or enjoy as a snack. Try apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, and peaches. Most adults should eat about 1 to 2 cups of fruit per day.

3. Whole grains. Choose bread, cereal, oats, pasta and rice made from whole grains like barley, buckwheat, and bulgur.

4. Beans or legumes. Try beans like lentils, peas, and garbanzo beans in soup, salads, or served as a side.

5. Nuts & seeds. Try a small handful of pistachios, pecans, almonds, cashews, or walnuts as a snack or added to salads. Seeds that are a regular part of the Mediterranean Diet include sunflower, pumpkin, chia, and hemp seeds.

6. Healthy fats. Use healthy fats like olive oil, canola oil, and soy oil. Fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds are also good sources of healthy fats.

7. Red wine or grape juice. Drink red wine or grape juice. It’s the antioxidants in grapes that help improve circulation and heart health.

8. Herbs and spices. Spice things up with garlic, thyme, oregano, basil, cayenne, curry, and other herbs.

9. Fish & poultry. Avoid or limit red meat. Instead eat fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring. Or go with skinless poultry like chicken and turkey.

Use this as a checklist of things to eat to help you follow the Mediterranean Diet.

Not your typical Italian restaurant way of eating

Take a closer look, and you’ll see eating this way doesn’t look quite like the meals you’d find on the menu at an Italian restaurant in the U.S.

There’s two big differences:

Portion size: Most restaurant meals are big enough for two servings. That means twice as many calories as you need, too. If you want to follow the Mediterranean Diet, pay attention to portion sizes.

Sodium content: When you follow the Mediterranean Diet and eat more fresh foods, you’ll eat less sodium. Fast food, restaurant meals, and frozen foods are high in sodium. But the Mediterranean Diet is low in sodium.

Eating this way can protect your heart, lower blood pressure, and reduce stroke risk. It may also help prevent some kinds of cancer, preserve memory, and control blood sugar.

The Mediterranean lifestyle

Food isn’t the only thing on the menu for living a long and healthy life. Healthy relationships, a relaxed approach to life, and regular exercise is also part of the reason people in Acciaroli, Italy live longer.

References

Daniels, L., et al. (2020). Cardiovascular health of nonagenarians in southern Italy: a cross-sectional, home-based pilot study of longevity. Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, 21(2): 89-98. From: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31789688/

McManus, K. (2019). A practical guide to the Mediterranean diet. Harvard Health Publishing. From: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/a-practical-guide-to-the-mediterranean-diet-2019032116194

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