Looking for a healthy eating plan? Enter the Mediterranean diet. Renowned for its focus on fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and wholesome natural foods, incorporating a Mediterranean diet meal plan into your life will be so enjoyable, it won’t even feel like a diet.
Many people follow the Mediterranean diet to increase life expectancy and help lower the risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease. This diet plan can also be prescribed simultaneously to people who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or its risk factors, such as obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and inflammation.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the elements of whole foods, plant-based diet containing ingredients like legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with a limited intake of refined foods and animal products can help to prevent, manage, and — in some cases — reverse type 2 diabetes.
This article shares more on what the Meditteranean diet consists of, including the benefits of this diet, as well as steps to include TCM eating practices into this meal plan.
The Mediterranean Diet Benefits
The Mediterranean diet offers numerous benefits to our heart as it includes heart-healthy and less-processed foods. Studies have shown that it can even reduce one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease and lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease. This type of diet can also potentially reduce one’s risk of heart disease, or stroke.
One study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of cardiovascular disease was lower in those who consumed a Mediterranean diet. Specifically, participants who consumed extra-virgin olive oil or nuts rather than those eating foods on a reduced-fat diet.
Additionally, a fiber-rich diet as part of a Mediterranean diet can help remove the hormones associated with breast and prostate cancer from the body. Similarly, these fibers can also help remove waste products from the digestive system. They can also help reduce a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. In general, people tend to feel full and satiated with more energy on this plan.
The Mediterranean Diet Plan Staples
There are many variations of this diet. The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional way of eating in Greece, Italy, and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The most crucial step with this diet is to understand the basics of what you can eat and to plan the meal. To do this effectively, look through your recipes and start listing down all the ingredients that you will need. Next, look through your kitchen pantry and cross off the ingredients you already have. Finally, go to the grocery store and stock up on staples.
Some of the basics include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables — e.g., tomatoes, spinach, apples, pears
- Whole grains — e.g., quinoa, brown rice, barley, oats, whole-wheat bread
- Fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids — e.g., salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
- Legumes — e.g., black beans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans
- Nuts and seeds — e.g., cashews, almonds, pistachios
- Poultry, unsweetened yogurt, and eggs
- Olive oil
- Fresh herbs and spices
Mediterranean Diet Plan Considerations
However, people who are new to this diet may experience fatigue during the early stages. The body will be adjusting to a reduced calorie intake. “They will start to feel more energized once their bodies acclimate to the consumption of plant-based foods. This makes up a Mediterranean diet. Growing children or girls who have started menstruating should consume fortified cereals or beverages. This is to ensure a sufficient intake of nutrients like vitamins B12 and D and calcium if they are on this diet,” explains TCM physician Kong Teck Chuan from Eu Yan Sang clinic.
You can also complete your diet by taking a Spirulina supplement. This aligns with the guidelines of a Mediterranean diet. It is suitable for adults and children (6 years or older) and can provide numerous health benefits. These include the ability to rid your body of toxins, boost energy levels, and enhance your immune system.
Incorporating TCM into the Mediterranean diet
According to TCM, food is divided into five natures. Chief TCM Physician Chu I Ta from Real Health Medical clinic in Singapore notes, “TCM groups food by the types of energy that the food would generate in the body. The five groups are cold, cool, neutral, warm, and hot.” He adds, “the nature of food or the property of the herbs is not determined by their actual temperature, but rather to its warming or cooling effect on the body, what effects they have on a person’s body after consumption.”
Some TCM ways of eating to consider:
- Warm and hot foods brings heat to the body — e.g., beef, coffee, ginger, hot chillies and fried foods.
- Cool or cold foods cools down the body — e.g., salad, cheese, green tea, and beer.
- Neutral foods goes with all body types — e.g., grained rice, corn, taro, sweet potato, potato, pork, and egg.
As a part of this diet, add Chinese medicinal ingredients like China root (土茯苓), fox nuts (also known as Euryale seeds), lotus seeds, and Chinese yams. You can use these ingredients to prepare an immune-boosting herbal soup that strengthens your spleen and regulates digestive functions. Include cooling herbs like peppermint and chrysanthemum, as well as warming herbs like cinnamon and ginseng, depending on the season.
Moreover, Physician Chu advises consuming a variety of foods with six major nutrients: carbohydrates, lipids, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water. For people who have higher BMI, consider choosing low-calorie foods like bamboo shoots, bean curd, and papaya.
High-fiber foods like oats and brown rice are also important to maintain a stable metabolism rate. To fulfill your fiber intake, consume a drink essence with oat bran fiber and Garcinia Cambogia extract which can also burn fat.
Foods to Avoid in TCM
Similar to the Mediterranean diet, TCM believes a balanced body constitution represents the ideal body weight. Physician Chu says that this includes characteristics of having full energy, a strong voice, being optimistic, and being adaptable. “Symptoms of well-balanced body constitution are people with radiant cheeks, attentive, not easily tired, have radiant hair, sleep well, and have a good digestive system and bowel movements.”
Physician Chu also adds several general foods to avoid for a healthy diet:
- Avoid foods that are too oily, salty, and high in sugar — e.g., sugary drinks, soy milk, and desserts.
- Avoid white rice, noodles made by flour, and breads. Replace it with potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, corn, Chinese barley, red bean, green beans, brown rice
- Choose less meats with high-saturated fats: Opt for lean meats, chicken breasts, fish, edamame, and soybean as sources of protein.
“In addition, cold fruits and raw foods can lead to poor digestion of spleen, therefore, should try to avoid those above mentioned, especially in the evening,” says physician Chu.
Including a Mediterranean diet meal plan is a great way to kick-start a healthy foot. Pair your healthy diet with a healthy lifestyle. You can start by sleeping early before 11 p.m. to revitalize your immune system. By including more of these tips, along with TCM practices, you will have more energy and even lower your risk of disease.
- Medical News Today. 2019. Our guide to the Mediterranean diet. [Accessed on December 22, 2021]
- Mayo Clinic. 2021. Mediterranean diet for heart health. [Accessed on December 22, 2021]
- Mayo Clinic. 2021. Alzheimer’s: Can a Mediterranean diet lower my risk?. [Accessed on December 22, 2021]
- The New England Journal of Medicine. 2018. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts. [Accessed on December 22, 2021]
- Nutrients. 2020. Potential of Chlorella as a Dietary Supplement to Promote Human Health. [Accessed on December 22, 2021]
- Digestive diseases and sciences. 2020. Diet and the Human Gut Microbiome: An International Review. [Accessed on December 22, 2021]
- Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy. 2020. Research progress on Traditional Chinese Medicine syndromes of diabetes mellitus. [Accessed on December 22, 2021]
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017. Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cardiovascular Disease: Evidence and Potential Mechanisms. [Accessed on December 22, 2021]