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We’re sure you saw the headlines: The Mediterranean diet helps prolong life. Heck, it may even add years to it by fighting off the cell degeneration that accompanies aging. But this isn’t the only benefit to eating the way of Greeks and Turks. The Mediterranean diet is the most researched diet in the world and science has linked it to a decreased risk for many diseases that include obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as a decreased risk of conditions such as erectile dysfunction (tell your man), stroke and heart attack.
But if you’re eating in a gluten-free, paleo, or vegetarian way, what good will it do to you? Plenty. There are some simple swaps that you can adopt that help you can some of the benefits that the Mediterranean diet has to offer without making drastic changes to your diet.
Swap the coconut oil for olive oil. Have you jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon? You might want to join team olive oil—a hallmark of the Mediterranean diet. It’s loaded with monounsaturated fats—which has been shown extensively to benefit heart health. In fact, it makes up 10 of the 14 grams of fat found in a tablespoon of the green oil. When you compare coconut and olive oils head-to-head, both contain 14 grams of fat in one tablespoon but the make up of that fat is vastly different. Coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat while olive oil has 1.9 grams. And while the saturated fat in coconut oil might be less harmful than other saturated fats, the scientific jury is still out on that.
Add a little wine to your meals. Regular but moderate intake of alcohol—specifically wine at dinner—is a Mediterranean diet staple. A 5-ounce serving of pinot noir is 120 calories. It’s unclear whether the benefits come from the alcohol or the antioxidants in the wine so if you abstain from alcohol, purple grape juice may also do the trick.
Swap a chicken breast or two (or three) for fish. The Mediterranean diet boosts fish as a major protein sources and limits dairy products and poultry. We realize that chicken breasts are easily portable so may we suggest fish for breakfast or dinner. It can be added to scrambled egg whites or in a salad or as the centerpiece of a meal as it is in these recipes. And because how to buy and store fish is so important, get a primer here.
Keep your whole grain habit or start playing with quinoa. Whole grains are known to help lower cholesterol, which keeps blood moving unencumbered through the body. Eating a bowl of oatmeal each morning is an easy way to get your grains in, but you already knew that. If you are shunning grains because you’re trying to live a gluten-free existence, try adding quinoa and faro to your diet (for recipes, see here).