Incorporate Mediterranean eating pattern in diet

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In summary of last week's article, unsaturated fats are good fats that help to increase HDL - or "good" cholesterol. Sources of unsaturated fats are vegetable oils, avocado oil, olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and fish. Diets high in unsaturated fats allow for better weight-loss results, keep you full and satisfied, and benefit cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean eating pattern incorporates lots of unsaturated, healthy fats.

According to scientific studies, the Mediterranean eating pattern has shown numerous health benefits. These benefits include decreased risk of some cancers, protection against cognitive decline, 40 percent reduction in the risk of Alzheimer's, decreased risk of macular eye degeneration, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, up to a 60 percent reduction of cardiovascular disease risk, and blood pressure management. 

So what is the Mediterranean eating pattern?

The Mediterranean eating pattern is not a flavor profile, not potato chips incorporating olive oil and sea salt with a beautiful picture of the ocean on the package, and is not a physical location on Earth. The Mediterranean eating pattern involves these steps. 

  • Step one is to eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Step two is to make your grains whole. This means choosing things like oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn and quinoa, which are minimally processed. When eating processed foods like bread and pasta, choose products that are whole wheat. Whole wheat products contain fiber whereas enriched wheat products (wheat bread, honey wheat bread and white bread) do not.
  • The next step is to swap your protein. Eat less red meat, and eat more white meat poultry, fish and seafood. These protein sources contain mostly unsaturated fat.
  • With that, the next step is to swap your fat. Healthy, unsaturated fats keep us full and satisfied and benefit blood cholesterol levels. Rather than butter or solid fats, use oils that are liquid at room temperature for cooking. Snack on nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats and fiber - again, keeping you full and satisfied longer.
  • The final step is to rethink your sweets. This means having things that offer natural sugars, such as whole fruits, rather than added sugars for dessert. Natural sugars knock out sweet cravings and do not have negative health effects. In moderation, you may choose dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and is lower in saturated fat.
  • The final portion of the Mediterranean eating pattern is to enjoy your food. As Americans, we eat on the go and rarely enjoy the foods we put into our bodies. By taking the time to enjoy the food, you eat slower and allow yourself to feel full before overindulging in calories. Taking time to enjoy is far less stressful than stuffing your face on the go.
  • Lastly, with the Mediterranean eating pattern, you are allowed to have a serving of red wine if you choose, but it is not required.

To get started, enjoy this recipe (link: www.medinsteadofmeds.com/whole-wheat-pasta-beans-greens/) For more information call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Wilson County Center at 252-237-0111 or email Cassidy Hobbs at cdhobbs3@ncsu.edu.

Whole Wheat Pasta With Beans And Greens

2 pounds (approximately 10-12 cups packed leaves) of Swiss chard

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes

1 cup spaghetti sauce (choose a brand with limited added sugar - check the brands found in the refrigerator case)

1 cup canned garbanzo beans (or white beans) drained and rinsed

8 ounces whole-grain pasta (any shape)

Remove the large stem from the Swiss chard and cut in 1-inch strips.

Boil a large pot of water, add the salt.

Add the Swiss chard and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Remove from boiling water and shock in an ice bath (large bowl of ice water).

Drain well and chop. Set greens aside.

In the same pot, heat oil and cook the onions, add the pepper flakes, spaghetti sauce and beans. 

Once thoroughly combined and warmed (approximately 4 minutes) add Swiss chard back into pot.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Drain the pasta and add to the chard, spaghetti sauce, and bean mixture.

Serve immediately.

Med Instead of Meds