What comes to your mind when you think of a typical American meal?
Now, we said meal.
Does this vision get polished off with a heaping sundae (with the works) or a nice slice of hot apple pie (with ice cream on top)?
There’s a reason why the acronym for Standard American Diet is SAD. It’s been reported that 1 in 4 deaths in America is due to cardiovascular disease. It’s no secret that cardiovascular disease is strongly linked to obesity, which is linked to diet. So, if America were to change its ways, who should they pattern their diet after? Many say the answer is due east, all the way to the Mediterranean.
Rich in healthy fats (polyunsaturated omegas, amino acids) such as fish and oil, studies have found that those who consume a Mediterranean diet tend to live a longer life. So, how do we get America to eat Mediterranean? Let’s try to figure it out together!
Standard American Diet vs. Mediterranean Diet
In general, countries within this area have a much longer life expectancy than Americans. So, it makes you wonder…what’s the biggest difference between the two hemispheres? Look no further than the plate.
The Mediterranean diet first became defined in the 1960’s. Post-war Greece started conducting studies on their diets and recording their food intakes categorically. With hindsight, we’ve come to realize that their consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains far outnumbered America in the 1960’s as well as today.
Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of Mediterranean food staples to those in the Standard American Diet. The Mediterranean diet is rich in:
- Whole grains
- Wild salmon
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Garbanzo beans
- Herbs instead of salt, including basil and thyme
- Black pepper
- Chia seeds
- Grass-fed butter
Do any of these foods seem to pop up on the imaginary list of foods in the meals we listed for the Standard American Diet at the top of the article? No. Americans like their red meat, bacon, fried foods, milk, and cheese.
Everything from fruits and vegetables to meat selections, America’s choices highly differ from those who live in the Mediterranean region. Incorporating plant-based foods and whole grains is a staple for countries like Monaco and Greece. Meanwhile, most Americans gets nowhere near the amount of produce they should.
Studies have found that the typical Standard American Diet is lacking in the following areas:
- 96% of adults don’t have three servings of green vegetables a week
- 98% of adults don’t have two servings of orange vegetables a week
- 99% of adults don’t have three to four ounces of WHOLE (not refined) grains a day
These are all a stark difference from the typical Mediterranean diet. Eating so much processed foods and artificial ingredients, along with chemically-colored, synthetically flavored, deep-fried foods is doing a number on the American people. So, how can we make a change to such a different lifestyle? Here’s a few tips on how to get America to eat more Mediterranean.
Make Reasonable Swaps
One of the biggest reasons to bring everyone together, no matter which country they are from, is food. Just as Greeks like to get together and eat with their family, Americans enjoy a great gathering with their loved ones, too.
Some of America’s most festive holidays are rooted in grilling. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, people in the United States love to throw fatty red meat patties onto a grill during nice weather. That’s great and what makes America, well, America. You don’t need to lose that experience, you might just want to change your meat choice.
There are so many delicious alternatives that are Mediterranean friendly. You can swap out a greasy beef patty for a:
- Quinoa burger
- Chickpea burger
- Salmon burger
- Grilled chicken
- Crab cake
It won’t taste the same, but hey, maybe it’ll taste better to you! If it doesn’t, don’t let it ruin your experience. What matters most is the company you are in, not the taste of the food you are eating. If eating a salmon burger buys you 10 more years with the people you love, you’d undoubtedly take it.
Change Up Your Salad Dressings
For a lot of people, salads are the key to getting healthy. Hey, you can’t go wrong with that. As we mentioned before, Americans are lacking in a variety of colors in their diet.
Eating the rainbow is important because different colored foods have different nutrients. After all, those unique nutrients is what gives these foods their distinct color. For instance, sweet potatoes and carrots are orange from beta carotene. Whereas, broccoli and spinach are green from chlorophyll.
Nothing ruins all the healthiness that comes with a salad than using overly-processed salad dressings. This can make your salad fattier than a Big Mac! That’s because many salad dressings are made with a treasure trove of ingredients you can’t list. At least you can sort of list Big Mac ingredients. Special sauce is one…
The best way to keep your salad healthy is to keep it simple. Do as the Mediterranean region does and use extra virgin olive oil. Give it an extra kick with red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is extremely good for gut health as its acidity helps kill off bad bacteria. So, this will give your salad a healthier boost. Top off the mixed greens with some black pepper (another Mediterranean staple), which increases the bioavailability of all the nutrients in your salad.
Sometimes you need to take smaller steps before making a change as drastic as switching up your diet. One easy way to make that change is to take a supplement.
Olives are the most synonymous food with the Mediterranean diet. If you’re not comfortable dousing everything you consume in extra virgin olive oil, you can still get all the benefits of this valuable oil by taking a supplement such as olive leaf extract.
Taking olive leaf extract can give you many of the benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet. This includes:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Increased heart health
- Improved memory
- Reduction of cell proliferation
- Inhibition of bacterial and fungal growth
Supplements are a less extreme way of making changes for the greater good of your health. However, they are not the answer alone. Taking supplements are a crutch in a long journey. Ultimately, you need to cut back on the saturated fats of the Standard American Diet and opt for the polyunsaturated fats of the Mediterranean diet.
Switch from Standard American Diet to Mediterranean Diet
The foods we are accustomed to eating are comforting. However, nothing is more comforting than maintaining your health. Sometimes you need to sacrifice the things you enjoy for the greater good. A longer life is that greater good.
Making small changes like swapping out your protein at a cookout, switching up your salad dressing, and taking olive leaf extract supplements can go a long way toward improving your longevity. A long life full of quality is possible. Make the switch from an American diet to the Mediterranean diet.
What are some of your favorite Mediterranean dishes? From hummus to spanakopita, we want to hear it all. Let us know below!