The Mediterranean Way
Lana’s Diet Choice Based on Scientifically Proven Health Benefits
By Michele Szymborski
Lana Cabral has a Master’s Degree in Nursing and began her career caring for babies in neonatal intensive care units. Lana has since worked as a hospital case management consultant and currently holds a top level management position directing activities to improve many facets of health care services.
Like many people, Lana was seeking a way to improve her own health by eating more nutritiously. She has a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, and had been recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes when she decided to focus on her own health in January 2011.
After working on a project together in 2013, Lana agreed to let me interview her to better understand her lifestyle choice. Lana and I sat side-by-side on a train headed from Penn Station in NY to Wilmington, DE discussing her success. Lana lost weight and improved her health status after adopting a Mediterranean diet, an eating lifestyle traditional to countries boarding the Mediterranean Sea. A substantial amount of research has been conducted over the years demonstrating the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet on prevention of cardiovascular disease and certain types of diabetes. Lana explains why this lifestyle works for her.
Michele Szymborski. What motivated you to choose a Mediterranean diet?
Lana Cabral. I had a desire to eat healthy so I started researching on-line different diets and the health benefits of each. I also attended an eight hour seminar where clinical experts presented information on a meta-analysis1 of various diets. The Mediterranean diet was natural, and it resonated with my desired lifestyle and health goals so I believed I could stick to it.
MS. How has this new lifestyle worked for you so far?
LC. I follow a low carbohydrate meal plan that includes whole grains, such as wheat pasta. I eat very little white sugar and flour. I enjoy seafood several times a week, eat more fresh vegetables, and cook with olive oil. My food portions are much smaller too. It is very easy for me to figure out what to buy and not buy at the grocery store, and there are good options to choose from on restaurant menus. I travel a lot for my job.
MS. What has been the most challenging part of changing your diet?
LC. I only eat beef once a month. I gave it up because eating less red meat is good for my health.
MS. What keeps you motivated?
LC. I learned to enjoy cooking. I use a lot of spices in different ways, which keeps food interesting. The foods I prepare are simple. For example, I marinate chicken, seafood, pork and vegetables with olive oil and spices, vinegar or citrus in a Ziploc bag. I also stir fry, bake or grill my foods. Within 3 months and after 6 months my blood work was great. I have sustained a lower cholesterol level. When I was not eating well, I felt it. I discovered the Mediterranean diet was a way to maintain a healthy weight and feel better.
MS. How can people find out more about the Mediterranean diet?
LC. I suggest research on websites such Oldways (http://oldwayspt.org/programs/mediterranean-foods-alliance/what-mediterranean-diet) and cookbooks. I started by learning the Mediterranean diet food pyramid found on Oldways.
The Healthy Eating Pattern of Mediterranean’s
Following my interview with Lana, I conducted research on the Mediterranean lifestyle. It is not just about a diet. The pattern includes leisurely dining and consistent physical activity. The diet itself is based on eating fresh and seasonal foods; not processed. Basically, it is a diet of “Clean Eating,” and the foods are rarely deep-fried.
The diet incorporates a variety of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains, olives, and olive oil with a some cheese, yogurt, fish, poultry, eggs, and wine. The foods in this group provide a substantial amounts of micro-nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that work together to protect against chronic disease. Adhering to this lifestyle also means eating small portions of saturated fat, sweets, sodium, and meat. “The Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle where good taste meets good health,” says Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways, the nonprofit food and nutrition group.”
1Medical Definition of META–ANALYSIS
Quantitative statistical analysis that is applied to separate but similar experiments of different and usually independent researchers and that involves pooling the data and using the pooled data to test the effectiveness of the results <the report…on low cholesterol presented a comprehensive meta–analysis of 32 randomized studies involving 42,000 individuals—Scientific American Medicine Bulletin>
“Meta-analysis.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meta-analysis>.