Archive for What to Eat

The Nuts Have It – 5 Reasons to Nibble

The Nuts Have It - 5 Reasons to Nibble

“Step away from the candy bar!” The all too familiar voice behind me meant business.

I dropped the Snickers onto the counter and literally took a step backward.  I was caught.  Red handed.  I opened my mouth to plead my case.  After all, I was in a gas station.  My options were limited, right?                          

My teammate, and accountability partner for the office “Biggest Loser” competition, shook her head at me and proceeded to give me the low down on the hidden gems of the gas station snackage options.  Nuts.

Sure, you're standing in the snack isle and your unreasonably drawn to Slim Jims and Baby Ruths, but be strong. Turn your cheek and head to the end of the isle until you find them – nuts – more specifically, unsalted nuts or (better yet) unsalted raw nuts.  They've gotten a bad rap in the past because of their fat content, but more and more studies are suggesting that even their fat can be good for you.

How can fat be good for you, you ask?  If it's unsaturated.  It’s the saturated fat that can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. But, unsaturated fat can actually lower your cholesterol – not the healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL), but the artery-clogging low-density lipoprotein (LDL). In fact, word on the street is that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts, five days a week, has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Here are a few more nutty benefits:

  • Protein. Nuts are high in the stuff, making them a great pick-me-up between meals. Yes, that Snickers bar might give you an energy boost, but only briefly because its sugar induced, and then you're headed for a crash and burn. So grab some trail mix instead and you'll be good until your next meal.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Most people associate this with being found in fish, but walnuts are a great source of omega-3s.  This nutrient helps fight heart disease, and might even help fight inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
  • Antioxidants. Nuts are a good source of antioxidants, which protect your body against cell damage. This means it could help prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments. Several nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and Brazils, are good sources of the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium.
  • Weight loss. Don’t go getting your hopes up, eating nuts won't make you lose weight. But they can be an important part of well rounded, healthy diet. Not to mention, when you say yes to nuts, you're saying no to that candy bar or those chips you had your eye on.
  • Fiber. That’s right, nuts also have fiber, which helps you feel full so you won't need to eat as much. But you don't want to overindulge on nuts either – they can be pretty addicting. So measure out the amount you want instead of grabbing them by the handful straight from the bag.

All in all, the nuts have it.  When it comes to healthy, they are a much better choice than the nougat-filled alternative easily found in the gas station aisles.  Not to mention, it’s easier to justify those chocolate chips if they’re mingled in with your trial mix. 

EPIC BATTLE: MICRO VS MACRO NUTRIENTS

EPIC BATTLE MICRO VS  MACRO NUTRIENTS

It was the twelfth round. One one side, the heavyweight champion was gasping for air. His muscles, bulging from his arms, were on fire from the acid building up in them. Devlin “The Mac” Stone had hit that kid with everything he had. But now he was running out of gas and even the capacity crowd of 30,000 people weren't replenishing his energy reserves.

On the other side sat Billy “Little Warrior” Peters. His slender frame was covered in sweat and his body ached from the vicious shots he had absorbed to get to this round. But he felt good.

“I can go another five round,” he told his trainer.

“Well, that’s good kid. How about we just finish this round with our head attached to our body?” The old grump shot back while putting Billy's mouthpiece back in.

As the two fighters stood up the crowd roared. This was it. It all came down to the final round. Only one could leave with the belt. They walked to the center of the ring and touched gloves. The last three minutes of war had officially begun.

What is A Micronutrient?

In the annals of time, there have epic struggles between good and evil, between David and Goliath, heck even Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. But one battle is raging inside your own kitchen. Whoever wins could make the difference between being healthy or not.

The better we understand food, the better we become at picking the right ones to eat (and the nasty ones to avoid at all costs – except during the holidays, free pass given for the family gatherings ). Eating better means making better food choices. Its really as simple as understanding what MICRONUTRIENTS are and how they can change everything.

A Micronutrient is basically a fancy word for “vitamins and minerals.” Ah, I see. So, there was a point to eating the Flintstones gummy drops when we were kids? Nice! Some examples of micronutrients are:

• Vitamins A, C, D , E and K
• fluoride
• sodium
• iodine
• selenium

Recognize those names? I thought you would. Micronutrient rich food gives you the most “health” bang for your buck. They are essentially super foods designed to fill up your gas tank with maximum energy and potential! What are some of the foods that are rich in micronutrients?

• Raw leafy vegetables
• solid green vegetables
• beans and legumes
• fresh fruits

These are just a some examples of food that should be consumed on a daily basis. And you don't have to pile up on the either. A few servings of each can make a world of difference.

Each Micronutrient has its own benefits and role in the body (for example sodium, in reasonable quantities, is responsible for regulating pH levels in your blood and makes water pass around your body better).

How About Macronutrients?

Here's the big shocker. Ready? Micronutrients have a twin. They are called macronutrients. Whoa! What are those? Here's a few examples:

• Proteins
• Fats
• Carbohydrates

These are the energy side of things. Repairing tissue, fueling muscles. All essential stuff. But think of macronutrients as a slow burning log on a fire. You don’t need that much wood to keep the flames hot. Many people overload on these and ignore the micro side of things. Not good. Not having enough micronutrients can seriously effect your bodies ability to filter itself, get rid of dying cells and produce the hormones it needs to keep healthy. Too many macronutrients will lead to weight gain, sugar levels going all out of whack and loss of energy.

And the Winner Is...

The fight was close but the “Little Warrior” wins on just keeping more gas in the tank for when he needs it most. Micronutrients are vital to a healthy lifestyle. The faster you fill your bodies up with them, the faster you too, will be the CHAMP!

How to Eat Healthy at Carl’s Jr/Hardees

carls-jr_hardees_logo

Have you ever had a craving for a certain food so bad you would do just about anything to have it, only to acquire it and it doesn't taste at all like you thought it would, or remember it being?

 Isn't that the worst? Donna Marie Nichols agrees! The Tennessee woman purchased a burger from Hardee's in March 2012. Something about the burger didn't taste right, so she did what any of us would do – call the police from a pay phone at the local liquor store. Twice.

 After telling the police that her burger tasted “nasty,” and “funny,” she was summarily booked on a charge of misusing the 911 system and subjected to a $1500 fine.

 Okay, there's nothing normal about that situation, except for one thing: sometimes we have to have that fast food fix. Whether it's a situation where we don't have other options, or a simple desire to go to THAT place and get SOMETHING, sometimes a place like Hardee's is the only option.

 The question when arriving at a place like Hardee's (or its sibling, Carl's Jr.) is can you dine there without totally destroying your diet? The answer is sure, if you're willing to forego that big juicy cheeseburger and those delicious, greasy fries.

 We ran through the Hardee's/Carl's Jr menu looking for healthy items, with our guidelines coming from the popular Mediterranean Diet. That meant a big focus on items with whole grains, fruit, veggies, nuts, olive oil and fish. It also meant heavy doses of red meat, sugar and carbs were penalized.

 The results? Here are a few items you can order and not feel guilty about:

  • Original Turkey Burger – Don't scoff, as turkey burgers can be just as delicious as their mooing counterparts. This one has all the trimmings of the other burgers, just with meat that once gobbled. Be sure to grab the whole wheat bun, and cut the mayo for a big difference in calories.
  •  1/4 lb. Little Thickburger® - Don't let the little throw you off; this burger can fill you up. Keep all the veggies, get rid of the cheese, and ask them to add the mushroom sauce. You won't be sorry.
  •  Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich – Another big sandwich that won't carry as many calories or as much fat as it's red meat brothers. Just 310 calories and 6g of fat.
  •  Country Ham Biscuit – It isn't exactly the most Mediterranean-friendly item, but at 370 calories, you can't do much better than this on a breakfast menu with items that crank up the calories to 1200.

Beware of: Red Burrito, a Mexican-themed side restaurant in many Hardee's/Carls Jr. Most items involve red meat, enriched flour tortillas and tons of cheese. There are some Mexican places you can go and get some great, healthful food. This isn't one of them.

These items aren't the big greasy burgers you see supermodels devouring on their popular commercials, but they are good enough to possibly warrant a 911 call if your local Hardee's/Carls Jr. messes them up.

 What do you order when you venture out to these restaurants? We'd love to hear your selections in the comments!

Artificial Sweeteners Cry Wolf

Artificial Sweeteners Cry Wolf

"Help!" I heard my little brother screaming from behind the barn. "Help! Help!" I called for Mom and ran to find him.  When I arrived he was standing in a mud puddle grinning.  “I’m stuck.” He tried to look innocent, but started laughing as I turned to walk away.  My brother was quite the little wolf crier when we were kids.  He loved trying to fake me out every chance he got.  I admit, it worked a few times.  Then I caught on to his shenanigans and started ignoring him.      

According to some researchers from Purdue University, that seems to be what artificial sweeteners are doing to our bodies.  Faking us out.

Recently, those researchers reviewed a dozen studies published in the past five years that looked at the connection between drinking diet soda and the health issues that resulted (1). The review was published as an opinion piece in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism (2). In an interview with CNN about the review, they admitted they were “shocked” by what they found (3).

"Honestly, I thought that diet soda would be marginally better compared to regular soda in terms of health," said Susan Swithers, the author of the report and a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences. “But in reality it has a counterintuitive effect.” 

She goes on to say, "You've messed up the whole system, so when you consume real sugar, your body doesn't know if it should try to process it because it's been tricked by the fake sugar so many times."

Essentially, Swithers is saying they are faking your body out.  Pretending to give it real sugar, and that’s what your body is expecting, but then your body doesn’t get what it expects and its left dazed and confused.

There’s no doubt the healthiest beverage out there is still going to be water, but realistically we aren’t going to completely cut out the things we love from our diet.  So, whether you decide to drink diet or regular soda, just do your body a healthy favor and drink them in moderation.    

Of course, there are always other alternatives to sweetening your favorite beverages. 

  • Honey: Unlike white table sugar, honey is a complex food. One teaspoon contains 25 other compounds including proteins, amino acids and trace minerals.
  • Agave: A distilled sweetener derived from the blue agave cactus, agave has a low glycemic index.
  • Stevia: A low-calorie sweetener that comes from a plant native to Paraguay and Brazil, stevia is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, so a little goes a long way.

 TELL US:

Which gets your vote: regular or diet soda?

How to Eat Healthy at Jack in the Box

How to Eat Healthy at Jack in the Box

Brianne Kiner was just like any other kid, begging her parents to take her to the fast food place with a playground. They do not do so frequently, but occasionally stopping by such a place served as a nice treat for good behavior or a passed test.

One day Brianne complained of stomach pain. Then came diarrhea, and cramps, then bloody urine. Eventually she was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with an e coli infection. A coma, thousands of seizures and several strokes later, she was miraculously able to leave the hospital.

Twenty years ago, fast food chain Jack in the Box essentially poisoned over 600 customers throughout Washington with the rare E coli virus through undercooked hamburger meat. Four children would die, and the restaurant chain would go nearly bankrupt.

There is a bright side to this story. Because of what happened to Brianne and others in 1993, fast food restaurants have been forced to clean up their act. More consumer and government scrutiny has been placed on all the popular chains, resulting in an overall healthier industry. And few have become cleaner and safer than Jack in the Box with their initiatives in the areas of farm-to-fork monitoring, microbial testing, restaurant level inspections, and food safety monitoring.

So you don’t have to worry about contracting a rare virus from their food, but is it healthy? You can get a sirloin bacon burger that packs in 1030 calories, but is it possible to order something that’s both filling and won’t cause instant guilt?

Keeping the principles of the Mediterranean Diet in mind (fresh fruits, veggies, beans, little to no red meat), here are a few dishes you can order from Jack in the Box that won’t totally wreck your diet :

Whole Grain Chicken Fajita Pita – Whole grains are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet. This is a half of a pita bread, filled with grilled chicken, lettuce, sautéed onions, cheese and salsa. Ditch the cheese and this is about as healthy a fast food menu item as you’ll find anywhere.

Southwest Chicken Salad w/ Grilled Chicken Strips – This big salad has a lot to like, from lettuce to black beans and corn. Save some calories by getting rid of the cheese and requesting a low fat dressing such. Jack in a box offers a low fat balsamic vinaigrette that is by far the best fast food dressing we have tried.

 Real Fruit Smoothie- In a hurry but want to treat yourself? Skip the traditional milkshake and opt instead for Jack's low fat real fruit smoothie. Choose between Mango, Strawberry or Strawberry Banana.

Breakfast Jack – This one doesn't sit too well with the Mediterranean, but it is a decent option if you need something in the AM. A fried egg and slice of ham (don’t get the sausage or bacon) on a bun, it only carries 283 calories and 11 grams of fat.

Jack in the Box won’t do too much for you on the Mediterranean Diet, but overall they've done a good job of maintaining a balance of gorge-worthy items as well as healthy dishes that aren't just repurposed cardboard on a piece of lettuce.

What do you order when you go to Jack in the Box? Share your favorites in the comments!

How to Eat Healthy at Chili’s

How to Eat Healthy at Chilis

For many people suffering from autism, a routine is the most important aspect of life. Having things in the same order, or a daily regimen that’s mapped out to the exact minute is key to comfort and normal function. It’s this sort of necessary familiarity that left 7 year-old Arianna Hill so confused one day while eating at Chili’s.

Severely autistic, Arianna was just staring at her burger. Her sister asked her what the problem was, and Arianna said that her “krabby patty” was “broken.”

Turns out, someone at Chili’s had cut her burger in half. A seemingly innocuous detail that many other kids wouldn't even notice, but to those suffering from autism, it could make the meal inedible.

The Midvale, Utah Chili’s staff sprung into action, not only giving Arianna a new burger, but throwing in free french fries to boot. "Oh fank you! You fixded my cheeseburger!" Arianna said, before giving the burger a sweet kiss.

Reading stories like Arianna’s reminds us of all the good people in the world, and when a business goes out of their way to make things right for good people, it makes us want to go there. We love our local mom-and-pop joints, but good folks work at the big chains too.

So you want to go to Chili’s, but you're on a diet. Can you go to Chili’s, and what can you order anyway?

Let us help. We've scoured the menu and found a few items you can order minimal guilt. As always, we used the tenets of the Mediterranean Diet as our standard. That means dishes high on fruits, veggies, olive oil, nuts, beans, and whole grains are great, while processed foods and red meat are gross.

Santa Fe Chicken Salad / Caribbean Salad – Salads are mostly boring unless you add all of the stuff that's awful for you, but they don't have to be. Besides lettuce, both of these have fruit and veggies like pico de gallo, pineapple, avocado, mandarin oranges, and more. For calories' sake, you may want to sub out the creamy dressings for a vinaigrette.

“Chili's Lighter Fare Menu” - We add this entire menu – except for you, Classic Sirloin – because generally, every dish has a good mix of chicken or fish with fruits and veggies. Bonus points to the Margarita Grilled Chicken for the inclusion of black beans.

Guacamole Burger – Hold it there, speedy! We need to make a couple substitutions on this. Swap out the beef for a black bean burger (trust us, it's pretty good) and ask your server if they have the “Chili's Guiltless Whole Wheat Bun.”

Sweet Potato Fries – These aren't exactly “healthy” at 420 calories and 21 grams of fat per serving, but they're an acceptable alternative to their regular potato cousins.

Salmon w/ Garlic and Herbs – Like just about any fish, salmon is a winner in the Mediterranean Diet. Swap out the rice on this one for corn on the cob, which is more flavorful anyway.

Beware Of: Bottomless Tostada Chips – Yes, they're delicious, and supposedly made of corn. But they're also covered in salt, and usually greasy, and it's impossible to eat less than 300 of them, it seems. Have a few, but keep it to a few.

The great benefit of going to a sit-down place like Chili's vs a fast food joint is they tend to be much more accommodating to people with special dietary needs, or in the case of Arianna, special needs in general. You can swap out sides, sauces and meats much easier at a place like Chili's, so these few items are just a handful of what you could theoretically order.

What about you – what do you order when you head over to the neighborhood Chili's? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

How to Eat Healthy at Taco Bell

How to eat healthy at Taco Bell

When you’re young, you're bulletproof, right? Randy thought so. Fresh out of college and single, he devoted most of his life to his job at a marketing firm downtown and partying with his friends.

Then one day he awoke, suddenly 30 with a gut and several chins. See, Randy is one of 50 million Americans who eat fast food every day. In his position of working and partying, Randy never took the time out to sit down and eat a decent meal. It was always McDonald's, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, KFC, or whatever fit his fancy at the moment.

Research has shown that frequent fast food outings can lead to obesity, diabetes, coronary issues, and other awful things. A 2004 study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that people who ate fast food twice a week gained ten pounds more than those who ate it just once and experienced a twofold increase in insulin resistance, which is a factor of Type 2 diabetes.

We get the appeal of fast food. It’s quick, convenient, mostly tasty, and cheap. But most of these places serve incredibly unhealthy food with mysterious origins and very few fresh or natural ingredients.

Eating a healthy meal at a place like Taco Bell just can't be done.

Or can it? Can someone trying to stick to the tenets of the Mediterranean diet “run for the border?”

Sure you can, if you order right. The med diet emphasizes fresh fruits, veggies, beans and whole grains.

  • Bean burrito, fresco style - Just 370 calories and no cholesterol, this burrito actually has some freshness with onions and pico
  • Cantina bowl - A salad of sorts, featuring black beans, corn and pepper salsa, and fresh avocado. Order without rice for even more healthiness
  • The Fresco Menu - not all items on this menu are Mediterranean compliant, but all do feature fresh veggies. Aim for the Fresco Chicken Soft Taco, which at least doesn't feature beef, a Mediterranean no-no.

Beware of: the Veggie Cantina Burrito. Despite it’s wholesome name, this little sucker packs in 720 calories and 1700 mg of sodium - just 600 mg less than the recommended daily intake.

Of course, Taco Bell will adjust many items to suit your preferences. Almost all menu items can be ordered fresco style, which adds fresh veggies and eliminates cheese. You can also swap out meat for beans and/or rice on most items, as well as black beans in place of refried beans.

With just a little bit of restraint, and some clever menu manipulation, Randy could have saved himself 10 pounds or more while still enjoying that hard livin’ lifestyle he loved so much.

What do you order when you go to Taco Bell? Please share your secrets in the comments!

Epic Oil Could Reduce Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

old_olivetree_bark

Imagine a very, very old tree. One with an enormous, gnarled trunk and tall branches. Because it’s so old, you'd think it very dry, riddled with disease and burrowing insects, and it would catch fire if so much as a spark got near it.

But imagine instead this tree is resistant to flame, disease and drought. It can live for thousands upon thousands of years; scientists have found several over 6000 years old. It can even re-sprout itself, even if chopped down to a stump.

Yes, this is a real tree. But perhaps you thought of a giant redwood… a towering evergreen in the Rockies… or an ancient Kapok tree deep in the Amazon.

What you may not have thought of is the Olea europa—the olive tree. And according to recent studies, the “fruit juice”—or oil in this case—might actually pass on the tree’s miraculous powers of healing.

Olive oil from the ancient and revered olive tree is a primary ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. And it doesn't just support a healthy heart… olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes by a study of over 22,000 people.

The EPIC Study and Olive Oil

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) studied over half a million people living in the Mediterranean. Many sub-studies have been performed, concluding (among many things) that increasing olive oil intake can reduce the risk of diabetes by supporting healthy blood sugar, inflammation levels, and fatty acid ratios.

“Although more data are mandatory,” the authors of one study wrote, “olive oil does not contribute to obesity and appears to be a useful tool in the lifestyle management of metabolic syndrome, [a group of risk factors for type 2 diabetes.]” (1)

Olive Oil Stabilizes Blood Sugar

The major symptom of type 2 diabetes is uncontrollable blood sugar levels, from either too little insulin production or insulin resistance. These spiking and dipping levels also lead to other secondary diseases, like neuropathy, retinopathy, and inflammation in the arteries, which leads to heart disease.

A 2006 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that Mediterranean diet participants that emphasized olive oil significantly lowered their blood sugar levels.

A fasting glucose level of over 126mg/dL is considered diabetic. This study showed that those who emphasized olive oil were able to drop their glucose levels an average of 7.02mg/dL and as much as 12.6mg/dL. For someone who was diabetic, that would be a 10% reduced blood sugar level—a significant reduction. (2)

 Olive Oil Helps Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is known to exacerbate or cause many diseases including diabetes.

One study published in Nature concluded that the oleocanthal—a phenolic compound—in olive oil has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties the same strength as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen. (3)

And considering ibuprofen has so many long-term side effects (stomach ulcers, anyone?) increasing your intake of olive oil to reduce inflammation is a far healthier choice. (4)

The same 2006 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine agreed: those who emphasized olive oil in their diet reduced C-reactive proteins (a marker of inflammation) significantly.(1)

According to olive oil experts, the best, freshest oils have a “peppery” flavor that almost stings. That peppery sensation indicates high levels of oleocanthal—and increased antioxidant activity for you!

Olive Oil Increases Healthy Fatty Acids

Even though olive oil is technically a fat, the American Diabetes Association says that the type of fat you eat is more important than the quantity.

Condiments like butter and animal fats, for example, are typically saturated and trans fats—the kinds that contribute primarily to obesity. Olive oil on the other hand is a monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, according to the KANWU study. (5)

According to results from the EPIC study and Dr. Carlo La Vecchia, followers of the Mediterranean diet are 12% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. (6)

Remember, to get the most diabetes-fighting benefits out of olive oil, be sure to purchase a high quality extra virgin. The flavor should be bright and “grassy”—and the more pepper zing to it, the better!

References:

 (1) Perez-Martinez, PA. "Mediterranean Diet Rich in Olive Oil and Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes Mellitus." Current Pharmaceutical Design. 2011;17(8)769-77.  Healthwise. Criteria for Diagnosing Diabetes. WebMD. 2011 July 1.

(2) Estruch R. Effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2006 Jul 4;145(1):1-11.

 (3) Beauchamp G. Phytochemistry: Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature. 2005 September 1;(437)45-46.

 (4) Painkillers, ibuprofen—side effects. NHS Choices. 2012 Feb. 7.

 (5) Vessby B. Substituting dietary saturated for monounsaturated fat impairs insulin sensitivity in healthy men and women: The KANWU Study. Diabetologia. 2001 Mar;44(3):312-9.

 (6) Rossi M. Mediterranean diet and glycaemic load in relation to incidence of type 2 diabetes: results from the Greek cohort of the population-based European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Diabetologia. 2013 Aug 22.

 

Take a bite out of the Mediterranean- Mediterranean Spaghetti

Mediterranean Spaghetti

 

Fresh pasta, olive oil and crisp vegetables are all staples of the Mediterranean diet and can be combined in a number of simple, yet delectable ways. This recipe is a homemade version of one of my favorite dishes -Mediterranean Spaghetti

Ingredients

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1-1/2 Cups portabella mushrooms, chopped

1 Cup asparagus spears, cut in 1” pieces

1 medium red pepper, chopped

1 cup baby arugula

1 cup baby spinach/chard/kale mix

¼ C fresh chopped basil leaves

¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti

¼ C crumbled feta

Sea Salt to taste

(Do not feel you have to be exact with the amounts of any of the ingredients.)

...................................................................................................................

Directions

 

Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add garlic and mushrooms to oil and saute.

Add remaining veggies/ greens and stir fry until tender-crisp.

Meanwhile, boil spaghetti until al dente - about 5 minutes.

When done, drain spaghetti and add to veggies -toss.

Salt to taste, sprinkle with feta and serve.

Five Tips to Help You Live to 100

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Here’s an experiment we want you to try: go buy a couple packs of cigarettes. Over the course of the next 24 hours, smoke 20 of them. Come back here and tell us how great and alive you feel.

No, we’re kidding. Please don’t do that. That would be awful, right?

Not if you’re Gregoris Tsahas. Gregoris, a resident of the Greek Island Ikaria, has kept up that 20-a-day habit for 70 years. According to a recent piece in London’s Guardian, he’s never been sick except for a bout with appendicitis. He walks to and fro across the hilly island, and drinks more wine than he should.

He’s 100 years old and is just one of the many Centenarians of Ikaria and other islands throughout the Mediterranean. The people of this region live, on average, 10 years longer than their American and British counterparts. What gives?

Part of it is due to an active lifestyle, part of it is good genes. The biggest part, however, is the diet.

Commonly referred to as the Mediterranean diet, the meals of this region are characterized by whole grains, fresh vegetables, beans and fruit. They're low in refined sugars and meat, especially America’s favorite, red meat. In fact, while we tend to build our meals around whatever meat is on the plate, the Mediterranean tend to eat it - “it” being seafood, poultry, fish and other lean meats - in small portions, typically as a side dish.

The benefits? Numerous, but they include so much of what we're all looking for: weight loss, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced risk of diabetes and Alzheimer's, among others.

“Hey,” you might be saying. “How do I get started on this fancy diet?”

Well, first off, it really isn't all that fancy. The people of these towns are not typically wealthy or highfalutin. Many of them grow their own fruits and vegetables.

As with any diet, doing it in a “crash” manner probably won't help you too much in the long term. But by easing yourself into the basics of the Mediterranean diet, you will find the changes much more palatable and easier to stick with. Try these five tips to start living like a Greek:

1) Meaty Experiments - You do not have to go straight vegetarian, but you do want to minimize your meat intake. Try cutting your meat portion in half. Also, try substituting fish or chicken in place of red meat in your dishes.

2) Load up on the “magical fruit” - Beans are a big part of this diet, and they’re also a great substitute for meat in many dishes. They can add texture and flavor, not to mention protein, fiber and necessary vitamins.

3)Sub out the refined, processed stuff - Avoid white flour breads and pastas, and reach for their whole wheat counterparts. Read the labels, too. Many foods labeled “whole wheat” are still loaded with white flour and refined sugars.

4) Load up on EVOO - So annoying when they say it on TV, right? Then ignore EVOO and go with “Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” because it’s a big part of this diet, not to mention the good monounsaturated fatty acids contained within.

5) Scope out a farmer’s market - During warm months many locales will have Farmer’s Markets, where local growers sell their fruits and veggies. Farmer's Markets to be cheaper than your local supermarket, and the goods are often organic. You will get good food cheaper, and contribute to your local economy in one fell swoop. Perfect!

If you've read this blog long enough, you’ll see that this diet, like the glycemic index diet, has the same basic principles of any great diet: whole foods, fruits, and veggies. Combined with an active lifestyle, it’s no wonder it’s such a hit with folks worldwide.

You may not live to be 100, or get away with smoking 20 cigarettes a day, but by bringing in even small elements of the Mediterranean diet into your routine can have tremendous effects on your health.

Are you an elite member? If you were, you could get access to more details on the Mediterranean diet, including some great recipes. Why not sign up today?