Drum roll, please!
Answer: a plant-based menu like the Mediterranean Diet. It seems you find as much written about the positive impact of this diet on health as you do about the advantages of exercise on healthy aging!
Here are some facts about the benefits of such a diet, and a few tips on how to bring these benefits directly to your table:
Every spring, the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education, the Osher Institute at Harvard Medical School, and the Culinary Institute of America convene for a four-day conference they call “Healthy Kitchens, Health Lives.” Most of the information below comes directly from this year’s recommendations.
Research shows that people who eat a plant-based diet — mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes — live longer and enjoy better health that those whose diets consist mainly of animal-based foods.
Many cultures built their cuisines around plant foods out of necessity, since animal protein was both expensive and scarce. Mediterranean, Latin-American, and Asian cuisines are based on pairing healthy plant foods with lean protein (fish, chicken) and mono-unsaturated fat (olive oils, nuts).
The Health Benefits
Studies show that these diets provide health benefits. The Mediterranean diet, for example, has been found to result in:
- longer life expectancy
- reduced heart disease
- relief from rheumatoid arthritis
- lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease
- lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Follow the motto “if it grows together, it goes together.” For example, they recommend the Spanish sauce “romesco” over grilled vegetables.
- Match a bold olive oil, such as a Tuscan varietal, with other bold flavors, like rosemary and pine nuts.
- Compliment a milder olive oil, such as a French varietal, with subtly flavored foods.
- Buy them in small quantities and in their whole form to ensure freshness.
- Store them in a cool, dry place.
- Grind them right before use.
- Toast them in a hot skillet or stir-fry them in oil over medium-high heat (both for just 10-20 seconds).
- Use whole-grain bread or pasta, and brown or wild rice.
- Try grains from around the world such as teff, spelt, farro, kamut, and amaranth.
- Blend whole grains with colorful vegetables, spices, and olive oil.
- Eat whole-grain cold or hot cereals, adding fruit, low-fat milk or nuts. (Fibre One with soy milk, raspberries and blueberries is my usual choice for breakfast, and on some days it’s followed with hot oatmeal, soy milk and strawberries for lunch.)
- Season whole grains with sweet spices like nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and masala spice.