FAQ

What about the mercury in all the fish on Mediterranean diet?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly all fish and shellfish contain trace amounts of elemental mercury. However, the EPA notes that mercury consumption should not be a health concern for most people. The people who should be most concerned with mercury in fish are pregnant women and small children. Fish with high levels of mercury can harm unborn babies and developing children. Therefore, eating fish low in mercury can be beneficial for pregnant women, nursing mothers, women who may become pregnant and children. Some of the most commonly eaten fish low in mercury include canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish and shrimp. The FDA also notes that white albacore tuna has a higher mercury content than canned light tuna. Limit albacore tuna to one meal, or 6 ounces, per week.

Fish and shellfish concentrate mercury in their bodies, often in the form of methylmercury, a highly toxic organomercury compound. I suggest that you limit intake of the fish highest in mercury to a maximum of once per week. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid high mercury fish altogether.

Fish Highest in Mercury
King mackerel, Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish (from the Gulf of Mexico), Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi), Bluefish and grouper: The National Resources Defense Council adds these to the list of those to avoid.

Fish with Lowest Mercury Levels
The Natural Resources Defense Council has a list of fish that contain the lowest levels of mercury. These include anchovies, catfish, flounder, hake, haddock, herring, salmon, trout, whitefish, pollock, mackerel, sardines and butterfish.

Can I lose weight on Mediterranean diet?

You can lose weight on ANY diet where you eat less calories and expend more. There are healthy diets for weight loss and unhealthy diets for weight loss. Watch your portions and calorie intake on the Mediterranean Diet and get your daily exercise in and YES, you will lose weight on this superbly healthy and delicious Mediterranean lifestyle.

Can I use any olive oil as long as it says “extra virgin” on the label?

NO! The problem is that that bottle of olive oil in your pantry, the one you bought for its purported health benefits and to help adhere to the much revered and seductive Mediterranean lifestyle, is most likely a scam. Authentic extra virgin olive oil, the kind that is truly a healing superfood, is hard to find in the marketplace. Seven out of 10 bottles of extra virgin olive oil sold in a U.S. supermarket were fake, according to a study performed by the UC Davis Olive Center. The lax regulatory environment has allowed large quantities of counterfeit olive oil to be labeled and sold as high-quality extra virgin. Use the Olive Oil Buying Tips (located in the DIET section) as a guide for buying authentic extra virgin olive oil.

Can I eat out on Mediterranean diet?

Yes, but order your food plain and tell the chef to hold the salt. Bring a small container of your own olive oil and season food with oil and a sweet balsamic vinegar, citrus and hopefully the chef will use herbs and spices. NO FAST FOOD! Salad bars are a perfect option, just avoid any mayonnaise laden salads, pile on unprocessed greens, veggies and beans and dress with your homemade olive oil vinaigrette.

Can I eat chicken or meat on Mediterranean diet?

I emphasize moving away from poultry and meat and instead, choosing either plant protein or fish protein. This eating strategy forces you to expand your eating horizons and explore the vast array of healthier plant proteins Mother Nature has provided us. With these proteins choices you get bonus nutrients not found in animal meat. That said, the traditional Mediterranean diet does include a small amount of animal meat in moderation. That means meat in small portions and only a few times a month (think Asian food where small strips of meat flavor mounds of vegetables and rice).

Can I eat carbs on the Mediterranean diet?

The good news for all you carb lovers: Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are staples of this eating plan. This means that bread, pasta, rice, and couscous can be part of your daily food choices. Just be sure to choose the whole grain, healthy carbs such as whole grain pasta (yes, EAT pasta!), brown rice, oats, barley and don’t be afraid to try interesting ancient grains like farro and quinoa. Understand that carbs are not bad for you nor do they contribute to weight gain. In fact, healthy carbs are the staff of life. It is the highly processed carbohydrates combined with the gargantuan portion sizes we eat in this country that give carbs their bad rap.

If I don’t like to cook, how can I follow Mediterranean diet?

I encourage you to try making time for preparing, delicious, healthful, home-cooked meals. There are plenty of tasty whole foods that you can whip up in minutes such as my tuna, tofu and cannellini bean salad recipe. Understand that the processed food manufacturers want you to think that the fastest way to prepare your dinner is by popping in the microwave expensive, prepackaged, highly processed meals. This is one reason why we are a country where diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease are epidemic. If the kitchen is definitely not in the cards, pick up fresh food from stores such as Whole Foods or you can always get a small plain sushi or shrimp and veggie hand roll for on-the-go.

Can I eat peanut butter on Mediterranean diet?

Absolutely! Peanuts are a legume and you should be eating some type of legume everyday. Nut butters such as almond butter also make a great protein spread. A favorite, portable, on-the-go lunch sandwich: whole grain bread, sliced banana and peanut butter or almond butter spread.

Why is coffee emphasized on Mediterranean diet?

Coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet. Just be sure to drink it black and unsweetened. If that’s not an option, flavor with soy milk and a calorie-free sweetener. Coffee is linked with preventing a host of diseases and disorders such as: heart failure, liver disease, liver and colorectal cancers, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and premature death. And…a typical cup of black coffee only contains around 2 calories! Caveat: if you are caffeine sensitive-switch to decaffeinated.

Are certain types of red wine better than others?

Red wine is recommended at dinnertime because it contains large amounts of phytonutrients which are essential for good health. In addition, red wine has a high concentration of flavonoids—highly powerful disease-fighting antioxidants. The red wines with the highest concentration of flavonoids are cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. If you cannot drink alcohol, try a glass of purple grape juice – it has some of the healthful ingredients found in red wine.

What are the main condiments used in the Mediterranean Diet Kitchen?

If you want to eat like a Mediterranean you need learn to cook and flavor your foods with lots of herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary, oregano, sage and cilantro); then add fresh garlic and lemon to everything… There are 3 condiments that a Mediterranean kitchen will always have: real lemon juice, oregano and garlic. Plus, of course, an authentic bottle of extra-virgin olive oil.

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