Mediterranean Food  

I am very glad to participate in this effort. Healthy nutrition is one of my main interests. I have spent numerous hours with my patients talking about this subject. There are numerous articles that have been written on this subject. My goal is to present information in a friendly & understandable manner thus providing useful solutions about nutrition.

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Today I will present some general information about the nutritional value of the Mediterranean Diet.

Marios Stathatos MD,
General Practitioner, Specialist in Obesity and Diabetes Mellitus


The obesity epidemic has taken the world and is rightly conceived as globesity, a  term which was coined to describe a world where one in three adults are overweight and one in ten are obese.
Lets begin first with the 10 top obese countries in the world and the causes of obesity which as a common denominator have the westernized way of life:
1) American Samoa (93.5% of the population is overweight)
The traditional diet of the Pacific islands were foods high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat. This began to change when introduced westernized dietary habits
2) Kiribati (81.5% of the population is overweight)
Between 1964 and 2001, imports of food in less developed countries in the Pacific such as Kiribati, rose six times. These imports led to a huge influx of fatty foods and processed meat with sheep fat.
3) U.S. (66.7% of the population is overweight)
In the early 1960s, 24% of Americans are overweight. Today, two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and is increasing. Experts attribute this rise to the consumption of oils, fat and sugar. The agricultural subsidies of corn since 1970s made products such as high fructose corn syrup, a common ingredient in almost all processed foods, much cheaper
4) Germany (66.5%)
When Germany decided that it was the fattest nation in Europe, health experts have blamed beer, fatty foods and lack of physical activity as responsible for this effect. There is also easy availability of junk food and many have a sedentary lifestyle.
5) Egypt (66%)
In the 1960s, Egypt has produced enough food to feed the population with red meat, poultry, lentils, corn and dairy products. From the 1980s onwards, the population exceeded the productivity of food, leading to increased food imports created poorer eating habits.
6) Bosnia and Herzegovina (62.9%)
Smoking, drinking and unhealthy foods peaked during the war that ravaged the country between 1992 and 1995. Those who lived in poverty weighed more due to the tendency they had to eat cheap processed foods high in calories but low in nutritional value.
7) New Zealand (62.7%)
The researchers found that the time children spend watching TV is the best predictor of obesity than those who eat or exercise. The study found that 41 percent of children who were overweight at age 26 were those who had watched more television.
8) Israel (61.9%)
Over the past 30 years, the number of obese Israelis tripled. As in most developed countries, obesity is more prevalent among Israelis with less education.
9) Croatia (61.4%)
Croatia is a victim of globalization of the food market, which tends to suppress traditional diets with processed foods which are imported cheaper from the U.S. and Europe
10) United Kingdom (61%)
A recent survey placed the UK at the lowest level of activity and while it is a country that sees much sport is the worst in playing sports

Greece is a pioneer in child obesity worldwide and the percentage of overweight and obese adults is 67% for males and 50% for women which classifies them among the most obese countries in the world
There are several reasons for the dramatic increase in obesity from the 1970s until today, such as:
• Increased consumption of processed foods that contain fructose
• The increase in the size of food portions 
• Increased driving and computer use (sedentary activity)
• The modernization of our lives and improve living standards
• Some medications (e.g antidepressants) that increase appetite
• The endocrine system regulating food intake and metabolism and the genetic predisposition
• Changing social perceptions about what is 'normal' weight 

All these factors suggest that obesity is somehow the inevitable price of modern life. Regardless of the cause of obesity, the solution is always the same. It all depends on lifestyle choices we make. And do not fall into the trap of blaming your genes. Science has revealed the "bad genes" that predispose to obesity, but eating well can overcome this predisposition.

The modern lifestyle based on comfort and speed is only an expression of lifestyle and should not a permanent habit. You can make different choices for yourself and your family. Some lifestyle changes may not be easy to acquire but this is the only way to do something effective to control your weight.
The four tenets of good health and proper weight are:
1. Eating healthy and maintain low levels of insulin
2. Get active
3. Sleep well
4. Manage your stress

In an effort to lose weight we will find ourselves facing many obstacles and sirens from food factories, restaurants, advertising and consumerism in general. This is a system that prefers a man who eats too much, quickly and thoughtlessly. We can do better and more healthy choices in our life. If we comply with the basic tenets of good health, we are protected for a number of serious health problems and diseases associated with obesity such as:   

2.gastroesophageal regurgitation
3.sleep apnea
4.uric acid arthritis
6.gallbladder disease and stones
7.kidney disease
8.diabetes mellitus
9.high blood pressure
10.high cholesterol
11.coronary heart disease
12.heart failure
13.atrial fibrillation
15.pulmonary hypertension
16.increased thrombotic tendency
18.many types of cancers 

Studies find that:
• People who are moderately overweight live 2-5 years less than people who are ideal weight.
• The lifespan of people who are severely obese could be reduced by 5-10 years.
• The biggest threat of obesity is heart disease.

Those who try to save money eating cheap, processed foods will pay that multiple times with problems of health later on in life.
This is why you should cut down on carbohydrates because it is a cheap and a nutritionally empty food ingredient which doesn’t make you feel satiated and but rather fatigued and sleepy due to the ill effects of postprandial inflammation.
There are some practical tips to help you lose a few pounds and improve your eating behavior and health:

• Avoid simple carbohydrates like flour products, sweets, etc. Eat in moderation wholegrain breads, legumes, bulgur, paddy rice, black pasta and starchy vegetables, beans, peas, okra. Your food should be balanced: 1/3 of the plate should be protein and 2/3 of starchy vegetables or 1/3 protein, 1/3 starchy vegetables and legumes and 1/3 simple carbohydrates-bread, rice, potatoes, pasta. Salad should be predominantly green and 3 fruits a day mandatory.

• Avoid fructose and foodstuff that contains it as an additive. Know that where indicated sugars on food labels, it is 70% fructose, which is more obesogenic than glucose. One study showed that mice who drank sweet drinks with fructose gained significantly more weight than mice consuming the same amount of calories from sugar.

• Do not eat junk food. It is a caloric bomb and you get dependent on it!

• Eat regularly, at least three meals a day and do not let long periods without food because you eat starchy snacks and refreshments and the metabolic rate is decreased with a resultant weight gain. It is a mistake not to eat in the morning or evening or to eat once a day thinking that we  burn calories during this time!

• Eating breakfast is essential and have adequate protein, so that during the day you will be less hungry and you will eat less
• Eat more fresh and raw foods and not processed ones in order to derive the full potential of your diet with vitamins and antioxidants (eg a boiled broccoli loses 97% of antioxidants, while with steaming it loses 11%). Avoiding excessive cooking of food (especially protein foods: meat, milk, egg) because they get rancid and it has a negative impact on your health. Eat your food as much raw as possible

• Change your dietary environment, do not buy fattening foods that put you into temptation, eat a small dish and eat with the family.

• Do not eat thoughtlessly, eg watching TV, computer or movie, because you consume large amounts of calories and you are not satisfied!

• Eat slowly so as to let satiety hormones to reach the brain. In that way you will eat 10% fewer calories

• Drink water before eating as it reduces appetite and regulates food intake

• Try to sleep well and mostly at night. Long (> 8 hours) or short (<6 hours) sleep hours predisposes to obesity

• Eat lean protein sufficiently during day together with a lot of vegetables because it ensures good muscle mass and you don’t get osteoporotic.

• Consume more organic food (or even from the garden) as it ensures better health. For example conventional milk is produced by cows receiving growth factor. This enters our body and in the long term it could lead to malignancies (together with the pesticides and the antibiotics that are used for the genetically modified foods that animals consume).

• Do not eat genetically modified products (corn and soybeans) and by-products (maize, soy milk, etc.)

• Take omega-3 fatty acids and get enough vitamin D and K from natural sources or supplements. Especially vitamin D in winter is inadequate because it primarily produced after exposure to the sun. Vitamin D strengthens the defense, the bones, prevent carcinogenesis, reduces the chance of rheumatic diseases and allergies etc., while the K improves bone and protects the blood vessels

• Exercise daily or at least have a physical activity that makes you feel good and sustains your weight loss

• Stress makes you forget your biological needs, disturbs the balance of your diet and your sleep and you get harmful habits (ie fast food, smoking)

All this might seem difficult to implement. This process needs time but you must work on it. Slowly you will acquire better dietary and social behaviors and at the end you will enjoy life better through good health and spirituality.

Published at  19/7/2010


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