Understanding My Mediterranean Diet
My Mediterranean diet is more than just a diet; it’s a lifestyle that encourages eating foods commonly found in the Mediterranean region, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Syria, Lebanon. The Mediterranean diet has been the top-ranked diet for six years in a row.
To me, growing up in the Middle East, I was surrounded by Mediterranean cuisine. But I only recently discovered its incredible health benefits. I used to take many medications that suppressed my immune system and caused severe side effects, and just wanted to stop taking Methotrexate, one of my medicines that I always hated even though it helped me move around without pain. This medicine made me feel like I was living a nightmare for two days each week when I had to take six tablets in one shot. The memory of those weekly side effects still makes me feel nauseated.
I absolutely love the food I cook, and it’s not only delicious but also perfect for my rheumatoid arthritis. My diet excludes dairy, red meat, and sweets, but it’s still incredibly tasty and includes plenty of beverages.
Here are its key elements:
Fruits and Vegetables: These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which provide essential nutrients and help reduce inflammation. I aim to reduce inflammation in my body to alleviate joint pain by eating a lot of fruit and vegetables.
Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is the main source of fat in this diet. It contains healthy fats and compounds that can help with RA-related inflammation. I grew up in a family that made its own healthy olive oil, and I’ve loved the yummy flavor of our special oil since I was a kid. It is the only oil I use.
Fish: Fatty fish like salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory effects. I have fish for lunch twice a week, and I pair it with a bowl of salad.
Whole Grains: Foods like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oats are high in fiber and can help stabilize blood sugar levels, which reduces inflammation in my body. I’ve made a personal decision to completely cut out bread from my diet because it works better for my health.
Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas provide plant-based protein and fiber, promoting overall health and reducing inflammation. I grew up eating legumes like hummus, lentil soup, and falafel because they are a tradition in our family and so healthy and delicious.
Nuts and Seeds: These are rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, making them excellent snacks and additions to Mediterranean dishes.
Dairy: Greek yogurt and cheese are consumed in moderation, offering calcium and probiotics. I make Greek yogurt a top choice in my diet and consciously avoid consuming milk and cheese.
Red Meat Avoidance: The Mediterranean diet advises limiting or avoiding red meat, as it is often linked to higher levels of saturated fats and inflammation. I’ve also eliminated red meat from my diet.