Change your life through your stomach

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When BYU senior Kelsey Holloway initially asked her boyfriend, Michael Murdoch, also a BYU senior, to try a new diet with her, he was skeptical and declined. But once she told him what was in the diet, he replied, “Wait, I can still eat chicken, pasta and bread? I’m in.”

While there are many crash diets that have the yo-yo effect of losing weight and then regaining it, the Mediterranean diet does the opposite. The Greek, Sicilian and Turkish influence has piqued many food-lovers’ interests and is here to stay in their refrigerators.

A typical day on the diet might include apricots, yogurt and honey with whole-grain toast for breakfast; a Greek salad with fresh figs and a pita sandwich for lunch; and red snapper with thyme, tomatoes and olives, accompanied by crusty bread and balsamic roasted vegetables for dinner.

According to WebMd.com, the reason this diet is so enticing is its quality ingredients, like whole grains, legumes, cereals, fruits, vegetables, and fish on occasion. It also has healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, instead of the saturated and trans fats. In fact, this diet’s primary source of fat is from olive oil. Compared to a typical American diet that has many processed foods, this diet is more natural.

What put Murdoch over the edge for this diet was he said it had a healthier sense to it.

“As I was eating, I just felt good,” Murdoch said. “I wasn’t feeling my arteries becoming clogged like other fatty foods.”

Rachel Higginson, BYU’s sports dietician, said the mono- and polyunsaturated fats are the best.

“It doesn’t lead to the buildup of plaque in your arteries, also known as atherosclerosis,” Higginson said.

However, there is a lack of protein in this diet. Some nutritionists believe this is the diet’s one flaw because protein is a necessary key for any meal plan. Murdoch and Holloway both expressed their craving for an increased amount of chicken and meat in their diet, but found lighter alternatives.

“Instead of going to hamburgers and tacos, I found protein in chickpeas, almonds and chicken,” Holloway said. “And in replacement of a chips and salsa snack, I found protein in a hummus and whole wheat cracker snack.”

Daniel Pickard, a nutritional science major and teaching assistant for a sports nutrition class, said this diet can give a different viewpoint of the protein you need.

“You can get protein from vegetables and legumes, but not in as high concentration like meat,” Pickard said.

This diet might have just the right amount of protein, compared to the typical American diet, which is high in red meat. Higginson and Pickard agree Americans typically eat more red meat protein than is recommended.

But despite a lack of protein, the Mediterranean diet contains other advantages and the impacts of the Mediterranean diet are clear. Many Mediterranean dieters and experts say this diet will make you feel healthier because it has all the qualities needed to make a difference. Murdoch said this diet is a positive life changer and its energy output helps you jump-start your day.

In addition, this diet is generous in carbs and high in fiber. Mediterranean dieters will feel full faster, causing them to consume less because the flavors and nutrients are so enjoyable. Holloway said this diet is not a heavy meal plan.

“When I added tons of vegetables to my average chicken noodle pasta, I felt more energized and ready to take on whatever task I was doing,” Holloway said. “I wasn’t uncomfortably full and heavy like other meals could make me feel.”

Dieters not only say they feel better but the medical benefits are there as well. In a study from the University of Athens, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003, researchers found that people who ate a Mediterranean type diet had a 33 percent reduction in the risk of death from heart disease. The study also showed that the cancer death rate was 24 percent lower than the death rate for those who ate other foods.

The Mediterranean diet is also good for heart health because of the antioxidants contained in the ingredients. The fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, which help fight off diseases in the body.

There is other lasting benefit: It is a long-term meal plan that is easy to follow through. In an article in the New York Times, Dr. Peter Libby described “this as the Mediterranean diet’s greatest strength.” Other diets are too painful to get through, but this diet is enjoyable and sustainable.

“This is not even a diet because I am not sacrificing anything,” Murdoch said. “It’s not like a crash diet to bulk up for football or lean down for track. It’s just how you live.”

Leah Marie Wasson Aldous, a recent BYU graduate, said she feels like anyone can do this.

“This is a perfect diet. It could work for your whole life,” Aldous said.

Holloway concurs that it is not a fad diet, one so restrictive that people end up quitting or cheating through. It keeps them focused on the right food and distracts them from indulging on the bad.

“I’m not giving everything up in my pantry, I’m just using those things in a healthier way,” Holloway said.

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