The Mediterranean Diet Goes Global

Marilyn Holmes, Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center and Registered Dietitian, talks about the many healthy components of the Mediterranean Diet for International Mediterranean Diet Month.

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Bridgette Butler:  Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I'm Bridgette Butler with Health Plus.  May is International Mediterranean Diet Month and today, in its honor, we are speaking with Marilyn Holmes, Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center and Registered Dietician, about this helpful diet.  Welcome, Marilyn.

Marilyn Holmes:  Thank you!

Bridgette Butler:  Marilyn, what is the Mediterranean Diet and why does it deserve recognition this month?

Marilyn Holmes:  Well, there's a lot of reasons that it does receive a lot of recognition during this month, but when we talk about "diet," per se, it consists of traditional dietary habits and lifestyles unique to the Mediterranean, so it's not just food that we're talking about.

Bridgette Butler:  Oh, that's so interesting.  So, it's both the food, the way that they are eating, but then also how they are living?

Marilyn Holmes:  Yes.

Bridgette Butler:  Interesting.

Marilyn Holmes:  It's all together in one lifestyle and it's awesome the way the synergies of the different components come together.

Bridgette Butler:  What are those components of the Mediterranean Diet?  What is it that makes it so healthy?

Marilyn Holmes:  Well, there's several, as we have said.  One of the ... it's just kind of thinking about every day, the way we live, being physically active and also enjoying the foods that we eat, thinking about the foods that we eat, taking time to savor the flavors, enjoying them with other folks.  That's all a part of our well-being.

Bridgette Butler:  What about the foods?  Are there particular foods that are being eaten that are particularly healthy?

Marilyn Holmes:  There are.  The meals should be planned around vegetables and fruits.  Remember "My Plate?"  The USDA's "My Plate" talks about half your plate being fruits and vegetables, (this actually follows that plan), using whole grains as well, olive oils as the primary oil that we are using, or canola oil, beans, nuts, legumes, and seeds, and even herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor our foods.

Bridgette Butler:  Sounds like a lot of very whole foods, unrefined, natural foods.

Marilyn Holmes:  And also, part of it is using local foods, foods that are in season.  This gets to the broader aspect of our eating where we are doing more sustainable things that are good for our environment, where we don't have the fuel used to transport the foods as much.  So, it gets to a broader aspect of our eating that is very important as well.

Bridgette Butler:  What can we do to more easily incorporate some of these components into our lives to achieve potential health benefits?

Marilyn Holmes:  Well, many of us have already started doing some of these things, but if you have not, or you are thinking about adding others, you may want to think about replacing butter or margarine with healthy oils such as the olive oil or the canola oil.  Eating more fish ... our fatty fishes, we know, are very healthy for us, and using those a couple of times a week, including our fruits and vegetables, and nuts ... adding nuts to our daily intake.  We could add them on our salad.  We can just have them as snacks.  We might be able to put them on top of a dessert or a whole-grain cereal as well ... and flavoring our foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.

Bridgette Butler:  Great ideas.  Thank you so much for letting us know a little bit more about the Mediterranean diet today, both the food factors of the diet and the lifestyle factors of the diet.  It sounds like all of these are doable, that we can actually implement these, even if just little by little, into our lives.

Marilyn Holmes:  Absolutely.  It's all of it together, not taken as a part but as a whole.

Bridgette Butler:  Thank you so much!

Marilyn Holmes:  Uh-huh.

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