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bigstock-Dash-Flexitarian-Mediterranean-328077271May is National Mediterranean Diet Month, which is a very good reason to explore the different health benefits and variety this diet provides! The “Med” diet is consumed by most people in Italy, Spain, France, and Greece and has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

The diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fat with a weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans, and eggs. Dairy is consumed in moderation and red meat is very limited. The recommended amount of fruits and vegetables is at least five servings daily. Instead of overloading on pork and beef, this way of eating is high in plant-based protein sources, poultry, and seafood. Food is flavored with low-sodium spices and fresh herbs, including mint, basil, oregano, dill, and parsley instead of sauces high in sodium and added sugars.

Not only are the sources of food important when choosing to eat a Mediterranean-style diet, but also how the food is prepared. Foods are not fried, but instead, they are grilled, roasted, steamed, or sautéed. The next time you have the urge to eat chicken nuggets or other deep-fried favorites, try substituting the fried food for a plant-based protein or a heaping serving of fresh roasted vegetables with hummus or tzatziki sauce.

Unfamiliar with how to cook in a Mediterranean style? There are a plethora of recipes online, but my favorite is whole wheat pasta tossed with olive oil and lemon and topped with sundried tomatoes, capers, and artichokes.

When we visualize how the food that goes into our body affects us internally and for our future health, it can motivate us to make good choices and it can help us adhere to healthy habits. Have you ever had hair and gunk clog your drain and make it hard for water to go down? You may have used Drano to dissolve the blockage or used a plunger. In a way, this is similar to plaque building up on your arterial walls. It builds up and makes it hard for blood to pass through. Before letting the plaque take over, try incorporating these delicious foods and exercise into your lifestyle so you don’t have to deal with all the plunging!

Tessa Mirjafary is Merritt Club’s Registered Dietitian. If you would like to schedule a session with Tessa, or one of our Health Coaches, please reach out to Sherri Lively at