Of all the dietary research available, of the most conclusive is that if you want to live a long and healthy life, eating a Mediterranean style diet that is packed full of fresh, unprocessed food is the way to go. With a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, lashings of extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and seafood it is hard to fault this nutritious, natural approach to eating.
For those seeking out a low carb approach to life and the benefits eating low carb offers, the glaring issue with Mediterranean based eating is the difficulty in keeping carb intake low when the diet is based on fruits, vegetables, legumes and pasta. The good news here is that you can eat both low carb and get the nutrient hit a Mediterranean Diet offers with a few key strategies.
When we think of the people in the Mediterranean and what they eat we often think of bread, rice and pasta as dietary staples. The interesting thing is that when we take a closer look at the diet, the volumes of fresh fruits and veges, legumes and good fats are actually much greater overall than those of the higher carb starchy staples. And while some starchy carbs may be included in the traditional Mediterranean diet, the key nutrients that are associated with numerous health benefits of the diet including lower blood fats and blood pressure, a reduced risk of cancer and healthier cells are generally associated a high intake of antioxidants and fibre from fresh fruit and vegetables and legumes and the good fat consumed via olive oil, nuts and seeds rather than from the starchy carbs.
For this reason, if your preference is low carb, to still eat Mediterranean and keep your overall carbohydrate intake low, or less than 80-100g per day all you need to do is focus your diet on vegetables, oily fish, nuts, seed and avocado. Then you can decide how much extra carbohydrate you want to consume, and add in some fruit and/or legumes to increase your carbohydrate intake as desired. As a general rule of thumb a piece of fruit contains 20g of carbs per serve as does ½ cup legumes such as kidney beans, lentils or chickpeas. So a piece of fruit and ½ cup of legumes per day will only give you 40g of carbs and keep you in the low carb bracket you are aiming for.
One of the key benefits from eating Mediterranean is that calorie control and carbohydrate counting is not necessary to reap the potential health benefits. While traditional Mediterranean diets do include carbohydrates such as pasta as desired without extreme weight gain and overeating, a key difference is that these diets are also not complimented by the vast area of processed foods and refined carbohydrates that the average Westerner consumes on a daily basis. Here a small serve of pasta and crusty bread is balanced with tons of fresh vegetables, legumes and olive oil not the fried chips, white bread and butter we tend to see here. To gain the health benefits we need to fully embrace the entire diet, not just the bits of it we like.
So if you find that lower carb eating suits your lifestyle and desire for weight control, you can still easily eat Mediterranean whilst keeping your carbs low. Simply factor in how much fruit and legumes you eat (and still eat some for the benefits the dietary fibre offers), and choose lower carb brightly coloured vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and broccoli. Here you will get all the key nutrients a Mediterranean offers for numerous health benefits minus the heavy carbs you would prefer to limit.