9 Tips To Improve Your Life with the Mediterranean Diet

16
10354

If you’re looking for a way to follow the Word of Wisdom better, the Mediterranean diet may be what you need. A couple years ago, I was conflicted with the idea of which diet applied best to the Word of Wisdom standards. There are so many new fad diets being pushed through books and the internet. Then my husband, a native Italian from Rome, introduced me to the Mediterranean diet. Its similar guidelines to the LDS law of health, and historic effects on the human body intrigued me.

Back in the 80s, Professor Ancel Keys, Ph.D., discovered that cardiovascular death rates were low in Greece, southern Italy, and relatively high in the USA and Finland. Further investigation proved that the lifestyle of these long-lived Mediterranean people could help higher-risk populations.

This discovery created what is now known as the Mediterranean diet; which a Harvard study, as of 2013, showed boosts lifespan and cuts chronic disease. These results made me curious to seek out the similarities between the Mediterranean diet and the Word of Wisdom.

1. Take Advantage of Herbs

God hath ordained [herbs] for the…use of man” 

Natural oils extracted from the Lavender flower
Oils extracted from natural herbs and flowers have multiple uses for our health

One way to take full advantage of our herbs is by using them alongside our everyday body products and medication. My husband’s southern-Italian mother enjoys using essential oils from natural herbs to help her children and husband overcome everyday ailments.

Historically, Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks were known for generously adding these aromatic oils to their bodies, baths, and medicines. Hypocrites, the ancient Greek “Father of Medicine”, recorded the effects of  300+ plants that are still used in today’s essential oils.

2. Eat More Fruit and Vegetables

every fruit in the season thereof [is] to be used with prudence and thanksgiving

a dish of sautéed fruits and vegetables on a bed of rice
Did you know that each Mediterranean meal contains at least one serving of fruits and vegetables?

Mediterranean food is traditionally based off of fruits and vegetables. When I was visiting my husband’s hometown, Infernetto, the daily intake of healthy meals contained an average of six servings of fruits and vegetables.

Each land is blessed with the ability to cultivate specific produce. Now that we can ship and import this beautiful food to different regions, there are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables available to us all.

3. Limit Red Meat

“flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air…are to be used sparingly”

Seasoning Italian steak
The average serving of steak, in a Mediterranean diet, is the same size as a deck of cards

Those who live a Mediterranean lifestyle are known to eat meat only a couple times a month. When they do consume the high-fattening protein, their serving sizes are typically 3-ounces. This is about the size of an iPhone 5.

Rather than overloading their plates with red meat, the Mediterranean residents incorporate a variety of fish instead. Tuna, salmon, or other types of seafood (such as clams) were added to my mother-in-law’s menu at least 2 times a week.

4. Grains are the Staff of Life

“All grain is ordained for the use of man…to be the staff of life”

Pasta art designed like a bouquet
More than a quarter of Mediterranean calories come from the fat of grains and seeds.

In the Mediterranean diet, 35-40% of calories come from heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Most of these fats come from natural oils in nuts and seeds. A diversity of whole-grain foods such as brown rice, pasta, oats, and couscous are also encouraged.

Last summer, on a trip to southern France, I noticed that while the culture consumed quite a bit of pasta, they always mixed and matched red tomato sauce or simple olive oil with different types of vegetables or sea food.

5. Limit Sweets and Alcohol

That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink…behold it is not good”

Glass of grape juice
We all know that sweets and alcohol aren’t good for you, but did you know that grape juice can keep your body from serious infection?

Alcohol is extremely restricted in Mediterranean regions, due to its chronic affects on the liver. However, one daily glass of alcohol-free grape juice is encouraged because of its high antioxidant probabilities. Most sweets in the Mediterranean, including sugary drinks, are low in sugar and only offered in the evenings after dinner.

When my husband first came to the states, he would always exclaim how American white and milk chocolate were much too sweet for him. He always preferred dark chocolate with 70% cocoa. The lack of sugar in dark chocolate tastes extremely bitter to most Americans (and was for me at first).

However, it’s similar to a sugar withdrawal. Once my body adjusted to my lower sugar intake, my taste buds did too. Now I also find white and milk chocolate to be too rich and thoroughly enjoy a bar of dark chocolate.

6. Drink Mild Barley

“barley…for mild drinks”

Italian caffe d'orzo
Barley helps you look younger as you get older

I know, I know. It looks extremely similar to coffee. But, the Word of Wisdom specifically mentions that barley is to be used for mild drinks. These mild barley beverages are popular in the Mediterranean. One example: barley water, made with caffè d’orzo from traditional Italians, was discovered through the ancient Greeks.

One cold evening after dinner, my husband exposed me to this Orzo drink, and I loved the deep, unique taste of it, but as far as I was aware, the natural roasted barley was unavailable in the United States.

About a year later, I wandered into a naturalistic store and found Inka, an identical product to Orzo. Come to find out, this warm barley water is a good source of dietary fiber, lowers cholesterol, and should be added to everyone’s daily diet. It’s also believed to reduce signs of aging and is a strong source of vitamins.

7. Live Enthusiastically

“Yea, all things which come of the earth…are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart

Those who follow this Mediterranean lifestyle, do not view it as a set of strict guidelines, but rather as a beautiful part of their daily routine.

I have witnessed how my extended family’s increased enthusiasm “for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul”, is reflected through the way they gather together to garden, fish, cook, and share in the joy of food and herbs rich in providing their sacred bodies with the nutrients they need.

8. Shall Run and Not Be Weary

“shall walk and not faint”

Summiting a mountain in Austria
Exercising daily elevates our desire to continue eating healthy

For the Strength of Youth pamphlet advises members to “care for [our bodies], eat nutritious food, exercise regularly” and practice stability in all areas of our physical health.  

Marilynn Preston, a fitness expert and personal trainer, recently took a trip to Greece, and testified in her article, that this Mediterranean diet and culture assist in forming a lifestyle “that values friendship and leisure time, as well as hard work”, which then helps individuals to experience a more balanced life.

9. Reap the Benefits

“all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings…shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones”

Increase your longevity like these happy 100-year-olds
Increase your longevity like these happy 100-year-olds, through following the Mediterranean diet

The Harvard study that I mentioned at the beginning, proved that those who follow the Mediterranean lifestyle, elongate their life. These healthy individuals are“more likely to have no impairment in physical functioning, mental health or thinking skills.”

Another analysis of 1.5 million followers of the Mediterranean diet that I researched, showed reduction of heart disease and cancer. Personally, these results seemed to reflect the type of blessings our Heavenly Father promised us through living the Word of Wisdom.

Do you agree with me? Have you had any personal experiences with the Mediterranean diet or lifestyle? Are there any other diets that you find reflect the standards of the Word of Wisdom? Let us know in the comment section below.

Nicole is a Technical Writer from BYU-Idaho, working as a content writer for LDS.net. A California girl married to a native Italian, Nicole has become quite cultured in the last few years. She has hiked to the top of Half Dome once, traveled to Italy and Switzerland twice, loves to run, and believes in the power of lavender-salt baths and yoga.

  • Thank you for post . great writing .

  • “Limit Red Meat” whoops, i have eat one time at-last in two days. Thank you For great post .

  • Brian

    Great article. I also agree with some of the comments about adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet, and the clear terms of 89:13. The book, the China Study, and the related movie, Forks Over Knives, finally made the Word of Wisdom make sense to me.

    • Nicole Modugno

      Brian,
      Thank you for your comment. I totally agree with you. Forks Over Knives is a fantastic documentary about how food can be our daily medicine. I’ll have to give The China Study a look.
      Thank you for the recommendation and for following us on LDS.net 🙂
      Nicole

  • So appreciate your helps/suggestions, thank you for your informative article.
    I’ve been using HERBS and natural methods not only for “common everyday ailments’……but as a FIRST defense……before seeking medical help where needed. One time my doctor told me I had a threat of shingles, so I asked: ‘before you write me a prescription, I want to research a natural remedy, then if I don’t find one, I’ll be willing to take prescription’……found a natural method that worked marvelously.
    I’m 66 years old, take no meds. My diet: wheat and other whole grains, dry beans/lentils, lots of vegetables and vegetable-based meals (dry beans/lentils are vegetables), fruits, nuts, meat sparingly, low intake of desserts/sweets, limit cheese/dairy and fats, herbs in cooking as well as first defense.
    SO so sad that wheat gets such a bad rap these days: many people are not allergic to wheat, but to chemicals used nowadays in growing wheat…..look for natural/organic. I can be feeling a bit sick, have 100% whole wheat for breakfast in the form of: cracked wheat cereal with butter and honey, or whole wheat crepes with homemade low sugar jam, or whole wheat pancakes with applesauce, and feel better within a short time. It is the FIBER (two kinds of fiber) in foods that help keep bodies healthier……fiber galore in wheat, whole grains, dry beans/lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts. [First kind of fiber is: insoluble……..found mostly in grains. Other fiber is: soluble……..found mostly in vegetables and fruits. Dry beans and lentils have both kinds of fiber. Insoluble fiber goes into system and ‘sweeps bowels like a broom’…….this is why some people say they can’t tolerate wheat/grains because they didn’t introduce into the body SLOWLY at first. Soluble fiber goes into system and ‘wraps around fats/etc’ and pulls them out of body].
    I have found if people can see and taste some ideas in using these foods, it helps tremendously. We love lentil tacos; even my teens liked a wheat pattie I made up for a meatless dinner idea; zucchini pancakes are the only way some of my family eats zucchini (mostly grated zucchini + eggs, bit of unbleached flour and stone-ground cornmeal, baking powder, sea salt).
    I worked to find recipes that our family liked using dry beans until we had at least one recipe for each kind we buy/store. It’s easy to pair beans/lentils with a grain [or meat sparingly] to complete the protein.
    It has been said: “eat foods as close to the whole as possible”. And staying away from processed foods is part of a very good plan to promote health. I have found that this can be accomplished by sticking closer to more basic foods when planning meals. My secret with our family meals: pair up something in each meal that they love with something I know is healthy for them……….interpretation……..work to get family off of boxed cereals for breakfast (instead use wheat such as listed above, oatmeal pancakes that have only 1/4 c. unbleached flour, brown rice n’ raisins, low-sugar blueberry muffins made with part oatmeal/part unbleached flour, low-sugar whole wheat walnut muffins), soups with vegetable choices (such as roasted cauliflower curry soup or red lentil tomato basil soup, italian lentil/wheat stew), add more meatless meals (such as the wheat pattie mentioned above, mexi lentil-brown rice taco soup, homemade creamy mac n’ cheese, rajma…..a kidney bean indian cuisine……with basmati rice), use familiar/well-liked foods in meals (such as whole wheat bread or rolls paired with soups, or when occasionally having a beef or meat roast, make extra vegetable choices and a salad).
    Simply have fruit for dessert more often. I usually base planned desserts on fruit or vegetable (pumpkin bars made with half whole wheat flour/half unbleached flour, carrot cookies, banana crunch cake, oatmeal cookies, fresh strawberry pie, apple crisp, yummy lentil chocolate cake)…….have desserts only 2 or 3 times a week/special occasions…….cut down sugar/sweetener in recipes ( use darker chocolate chips, make a meringue-based frosting with bit of sugar just to barely sweeten, integrate some honey or dark molasses, make very-low-sugar freezer jams using clear jel). I integrated these ideas/changes one step at a time over many years; the payoff has been amazing and well worth the effort extended.
    When my children were small, I fed them this way on quite a strict basis/highly limiting sugar and processed foods. Soda pop was for a picnic, etc. etc. But….when they were in teen years…..had to ease up on some of my food/meal rules.

    • Nicole Modugno

      Janet,

      You are such an amazing woman! Thank you so much for your comment and sharing all your wisdom and healthy recipes with us! I really admire your dedication to live a healthy lifestyle, and your encouragement to the rest of your children to do so.

      My husband also has never taken any prescription medicine. He has always taken natural medicine in all of his 33 years. I do not discriminate against prescription medicine, but I do admire your trust in natural medicine.

      I agree with you that wheat and grains in their purest form is best for our health. My husband and I love lentils! We will be trying that red lentil tomato basil soup and lentil tacos sometime.

      Thank you, again, for all of your suggestions and for following LDS.net. We appreciate your comments and look forward to hearing from you again 🙂

      -Nicole Modugno

  • Thanks, Nicole! You make many good points. There is no doubt but that a Mediterranean diet is much healthier than the Standard American Diet. We know, for example, that it decreases the rate of heart disease. But what really got me excited about eating a healthy diet is when I discovered a diet that doesn’t just “reduce” the chances of getting heart disease, but actually eliminates the chance of getting heart disease.

    This “heart attack” proof diet is a “whole food, plant-based diet.” When I matched this with the Word of Wisdom, I was persuaded that the Word of Wisdom is a lot more powerful than we ever imagined, even more powerful that the excellent Mediterranean diet. I have written a quick summary of my experience and the power of this diet here: http://ldsmag.com/article-1-14213/.

    I’ve been collecting stories of Mormons embracing this diet, and the results have been wonderful, even more beneficial than the Mediterranean diet (see stories here: http://discoveringthewordofwisdom.com). I’m wondering if maybe we have underestimated the power of the Word of Wisdom?

    • Nicole Modugno

      Jane,

      Thank you for your comment and following LDS.net. We appreciate your additional feedback and advice to others to help improve so many people’s health. I admire your determination to help others.

      Thank you!
      Nicole Modugno

  • Amber

    I love this Thank You for sharing it! The timing is perfect for me, I have been studying the Word of Wisdom this week and wondering how to apply it for my family. This makes perfect scene to me and am excited to try it. Can you give me some ideas of where to start or places to look for recipes?

  • Devin

    What annoys me is the continual denial of the whole picture of what is stated in section 89: “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Why do LDS members ignore the clear statement by their Lord: “And IT IS PLEASING UNTO ME THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE USED”!!!

    As is often quoted regarding the BOM, from Joseph Smith I believe where it is stated that If you truly grasp the essence of the Gospel you would not harm even an ant.

    Your scriptures ask you to be vegetarian, except in times of famine and conditions similar during winter – that is extreme conditions which most Mormons don’t encounter these days.

    best wishes
    Happily an EX-member
    Devin

    • Nicole Modugno

      Devin,
      Thank you so much for your insight on D&C 89: 13! I completely understand your concern for animals, and I do agree that the supply and demand of red meat and chicken is more than necessary. Thus, I appreciate the Mediterranean diet’s standard of limiting meat and its similarity to D&C 89: 12
      “Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly.”
      Thank you, again, for your comment and for following us on LDS.net 🙂

  • Natalie Tarr

    Great article Nicole! I love your thoughts and how you make the word of wisdom make sense in today’s world with all the different pressures. I had just been wondering the same exact thing! I benefited from this article. 🙂

    • Nicole Modugno

      Thank you so much! I’m so happy this article could help you 🙂

  • Gale

    Having lived in the Mediterranean for 11 years, I can vouch for these principles. We continue to follow a Mediterranean diet as much as possible. You can never eat too many olives, but make sure they are Greek and not canned American ones. Note that both Pero and Postum are also yummy barley drinks.

    • Nicole Modugno

      Thank you for the tips, Gale! Where exactly did you live in the Mediterranean?