People living within the Mediterranean have a vastly different lifestyle from Americans. They live longer and by some standards they live those extra years with greater vitality. The average life expectancy in Monaco is 89 years old, a full 7 years longer than those living in the United States. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, gum disease and the ability to reach a healthier weight. How Mediterranean are you? Take the following quiz and find out.
1. How many times a week do you grocery shop?
b. A couple of times/week (because you always seem to forget something)
c. Daily. Rather than grocery shopping at a large supermarket chain once for the entire week’s menu, people living in the Mediterranean shop outdoor farmers markets on a daily basis picking up the ripest, best smelling, fresh local ingredients to prepare their meals.
2. What type of oil do you use in cooking?
a. Vegetable oil
b. Extra virgin olive oil
c. Whatever is on sale
b. Extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the main type of oil used and replaces all other types of fats including butter and margarine. Rather than slathering on margarine or butter, Mediterranean’s dip their bread in this healthy liquid fat. EVOO is the least processed which means it has the highest level of antioxidants that protect against disease. It is rich in monounsaturated fat and the Food and Drug Administration has allowed manufactures to make the following health claim on their food labels: “Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.
3. How often do you eat nuts?
a. Special occasions and only when they’re sugar coated
c. Daily. Nuts, beans and lentils are a healthy way to add protein, minerals and in the case of nuts and healthy fat to meals. They are very economical additions because they increase the nutritional density of an entrée, add lots of flavor and allow you to cut back on the portion of meat served.
4. How often do you drink red wine or grape juice?
a. Special occasions only
Many Mediterranean adults enjoy a glass of wine with their meals. Our wine portion size is 5 ounces; the Mediterranean portion is 3 ounces. When you hear people reference that they drink “lots of red wine”, while it often might be a couple of glasses, due to the portion poured, it’s actually about the same amount. The phytochemicals in red wine may reduce your risk for heart disease by raising HDL cholesterol and reducing blood stickiness. However, purple grape juice is just as effective and a healthy alternative to alcohol.
5. How often do you cook with fresh herbs?
a. Do you mean McCormick? Does a seasoning packet count?
c. Every meal, plus I have my own herb garden
Every meal, plus I have my own herb garden. Due to the beautiful climate, many Mediterranean’s grow their own herbs or buy them at the open market for their day’s menu. You won’t find outdated containers of unused spices in their cupboards. Herbs and spices are rich in phytochemicals which may help reduce your risk for many diseases, help fight cell damage from the sun and environmental toxins, reduce inflammation and strengthen our immune system.
(Side note: Your herbs are very unloved if they’re sitting in a metal container inside your kitchen cupboard as manufacturers haven’t used this packaging for years!
6. How often do you walk instead of taking the car?
c. Almost always
c. Mediterranean’s walk to work, to the store, to visit with friends and for leisurely strolls after meals. There’s no need to enroll in aerobics or health clubs, as exercise is a part of their everyday active lifestyle.
7. How much water do you drink each day?
a. Only as a last resort
b. 1 glass/meal
c. Between and with meals
c. The Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid lists 6 glasses of water as a daily beverage recommendation. It was not listed on the old American Food Guide Pyramid, nor does it appear on the newer http://www.myPlate recommendations.
8. How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you consume each day?
a. Can I include French fries?
C. 9/day. They eat fruits and vegetables with every meal and forgo the dessert platter for a ripe piece of whole fruit. Sweets are special occasion treats that are limited to a few times per week.
9. What types of cheese do you have in your refrigerator?
a. Cheddar, Swiss and Colby
b. Velveeta requires no refrigeration
c. Feta, Manchego and Gorgonzolo
c. Feta, Manchego and Gorgonzolo. These powerful cheese flavors allow you to get a lot of flavor with just a few sprinkles or grates over the top of your meal. This saves the Mediterranean diet from excess fat, saturated fat and calories caused from excess cheese in the American diet.
10. How often do you eat fish?
c. Never they eat worms
b. 2/week. Fish are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. They are also rich in protein without being high in saturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fatty fish (mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon) per week. According to the USDA consumption per capita report, in 2011, Americans ate 4 times more beef than fish and 3 times more pork than fish. In the Mediterranean, red meat is consumed just a few times per month.
11. Your meat is:
a. Grain fed, travels an average of 1500 miles of which 90% is Tyson, Smithfield, Conagra, Cargill, Purdue, Oscar Meyer or Hormel.
b. Grass fed, free range and locally grown
b. Grass fed, free range and locally grown. The markets offer a variety of freshly butchered, wild caught and unprocessed meats.
12. During meals you prefer to:
a. Eat alone while multitasking (TV, electronics, reading)
b. Eat with others but still multitask
c. Eat with others, the more the merrier. Food is meant to be savored and celebrated with others.
Mediterranean’s regard food differently from Americans. They pay attention to their food. They enjoy eating and talking about it.
How did you score? If your lifestyle leans more toward American habits, try adopting one Mediterranean behavior at a time. They won’t win you a vacation home in Madrid but you are more apt to enjoy your later years with greater independence, fewer aches from inflammation and a healthier heart.