The Diet Dilemma- Mediterranean, Zone, Paleo- Which To Choose?

There has been so much talk lately about all the different diets out there. Years ago, it seems that the talk used to be mainly about Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and the Atkins diet. Now people are talking about the Paleo diet, the Zone diet and the Mediterranean diet, just to name a few.

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I hear these diet or “lifestyle” discussions everywhere; at my gym, at work and at the supermarket. Okay, maybe not the supermarket- but you get the idea. Why are we so obsessed with following a specific “diet?” Why can`t we just eat the foods that work for our bodies and for our individual lifestyle? Is it so difficult to pick and choose what food groups we want to limit, which foods we want to eat more of and how we want to cook our food? I guess the specifics of our food consumption is indeed difficult to handle on our own that we feel compelled to proclaim, “I am now following the Mediterranean diet.” “For the next three months (if I can follow it that long), I will eat an abundance of olive oil, fish, beans (yikes- I know- beans are regarded as “poison” in some circles) and red wine- opa!”  So what are these latest diet crazes? Admittedly, these diets have been around for years and although I have not been living under a rock, these diets have only recently gained in popularity.  What exactly is the Mediterranean diet and must I travel to Greece to get started?

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The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan. As opposed to the eating plan that wreaks havoc on your heart. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating, with a splash of olive oil and red wine. So far, so good. Any diet that condones the drinking of red wine on a regular basis is a candidate for further investigation. This diet favors the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the Mediterranean diet as an eating plan that can help prevent disease and promote good health.  Studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson`s and Alzheimer`s diseases.

The Mediterranean diet stresses: eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. It emphasizes healthy fats, such as olive oil as opposed to butter and using herbs and spices to flavor foods instead of salt. This diet encourages the eating of fish and poultry at least twice a week and limits red meat to no more than a few times a month. Dairy is permitted on the Mediterranean diet but it emphasizes low-dairy such as skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low fat cheese. And finally- it permits the drinking of red wine, in moderation (about a glass a day). This diet also recognizes the importance of being physically active everyday and enjoying meals with family and friends.

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A gluten-free diet is a diet is a diet that excludes foods containing gluten. Gluten is a protein complex found in wheat, barley and rye. Following a gluten-free diet may be a lifestyle choice or a choice that may be necessitated by medical reasons.

The Paleo diet is based on the presumed diet of Paleolithic humans (cavemen). The Paleo diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits and nuts. This diet excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt and sugar and processed oils. The Paleo diet is similar to the Zone diet.

The Zone diet is balanced in lean and natural meats, low glycemic fruits and vegetables and fat. The Zone philosophy is that with the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats, you can control three major hormones generated by our diet- insulin( a storage hormone), glucagon (a mobilization hormone that stabilizes blood sugar) and eicosanoids (a hormone that controls silent inflammation).

Personally, I believe in any diet that works for you. I do not judge what diets other people follow and I don’t offer my opinion unless I am asked. Some people eat foods from one diet and follow certain beliefs from an entirely different diet. I recommend that everyone should do their own research and not just from the internet- before they embark on a new diet. Remember those free-standing buildings called, “libraries” that we visited as kids? Where we could borrow books for free? What a concept. And it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning any diet.

I have included a delicious carb-free Crab Cake recipe. It is easy to make and great for any time of day. I believe that this recipe can be eaten if you follow any of the diets discussed above. However, Paleo followers may want to substitute another ingredient for Worcestershire sauce since it contains sugar.

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Carb-free Crab Cakes

Ingredients

1 container of Chicken of the Sea real crab meat (8 oz.) or 8 oz. of fresh crab meat
1 egg
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning or Mrs. Dash extra spicy, salt-free, seasoning blend
salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce -optional

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Prepare a fry pan with olive oil or any oil you choose. Use a tablespoon to form heaping spoonfuls. Press down lightly so they look like mini pancakes. Pan fry until golden brown on each side. I made 7 pancakes. Enjoy!

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