Community Blog

Seniors Who Eat Mediterranean Diet Live Longer, Healthier Lives

By Debbie Humphrey

I love Tarpon Springs, where Greek life takes on new meaning away from college campuses! The rich culture of Greek sponge divers and their families who set down roots in this beautiful, Florida West Coast community centuries ago, still impacts the lives of its citizens to this day.

Besides the sponge diving industry the original Greek settlers brought to the Gulf of Mexico, they also stayed true to their lineage by sharing their delicious food preparations like Yia Yia used to make! Vibrant fruits and vegetables, with aromatic herbs and spices, paired perfectly with lean meats and fresh seafood from the Gulf…doesn’t get much better than that!

For years, I’ve heard accolades about the Mediterranean diet, and I’ve taken some time to research it to learn more.  What I’ve found is that seniors who eat a Mediterranean diet experience lowered inflammation, more mental acuteness, increased energy levels, and boosted immune systems. With improved immune systems, their bodies were able to fight disease more effectively, resulting in longer, healthier lives, studies reported.

Furthermore, a Mediterranean diet coupled with a “routine of of weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, provides a way to lose weight and prevent weight gain.”

I discovered Oldways Cultural Food Traditions had outlined eight helpful tips for seniors or anyone who chooses to explore a Mediterranean diet for improved health and longevity:

  • Shop for fiber-rich foods, which are especially important in helping seniors maintain digestive regularity. Instead of supplements and pills, the Mediterranean Diet recommends plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and peanuts, which are great sources of fiber. Plus, these foods contain vitamins, minerals and enzymes to aid digestion.
  • Buy fish. Shop at stores that sell fresh fish and can cut small pieces to feed one or two people. The Mediterranean Diet recommends eating fish twice a week, especially fatty fish like salmon which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Reach for products that naturally contain calcium, which can help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Mediterranean ingredients such as beans, dairy products, and spinach head the list. Greek yogurt is an excellent choice since it is rich in calcium and vitamin D and contains twice the protein of regular yogurt. There are several great shops in Tarpon Springs that sell authentic, creamy Greek yogurt, too!
  • Think of meat as a condiment or side dish, rather than the main event at a meal. Mediterranean fruits, vegetables and whole grains packed with unique flavors and textures can easily serve as a satisfying main feature. Add only small amounts of lean meats such as beef round, loin, or sirloin. Open the package as soon as you get home and cut it up into small serving amounts. Make your meat purchases go the distance by individually wrapping and freezing portions for later in the week. This is a nice money-saving option to stretch dollars spent on meat.
  • It is easy to meet the Mediterranean Diet’s quota of daily fruits and vegetables by shopping in the store’s deli section and salad bar where you can purchase small amounts of raw and cooked vegetables, salads, and olives. That way, you can take what you need and do not have to worry about spoilage. Publix and Kroger stores usually offer olive bars with a variety from which to choose.
  • Lots of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables can be found in the frozen food isle. Buy them in bags, which makes it easy to take out small amounts at a time and reseal. Add them to soups and stews, or toss with pasta or rice. This is another terrific money –saving tip!
  • Your weather may not always be as pleasant as it is in the Mediterranean. Learn about your supermarket’s delivery service. Can it provide you with food when the weather is bad or if you can’t get out of the house? Also contact the store to learn what special programs or services they offer to seniors. All big box stores are jumping on the delivery band-wagon…for a fee. Check about senior discounts, but consider a non-medical in-home caregiver to shop and prepare healthy meals on a regular basis for maximum benefits!
  • Feeling overwhelmed? Many supermarket chains have registered dietitians on staff ready to help. Ask them about ways to integrate the Mediterranean Diet into your meals, or ask for a few Mediterranean recipes to get you on your way. If you use a computer, oodles of recipes can be found on Pinterest and through search engines, like Google.

Oldways wasn’t the only source I found, so I’ve listed a few others below.  Since I frequent some of Tarpon Springs’ best Greek restaurants and area farmers markets, I plan to continue my “research” by choosing the most authentic Mediterranean foods our cultural mecca has to offer!

If you know a senior who could benefit from adhering to a Mediterranean diet, but is unable to go grocery shopping alone; or they no longer prepare their own meals, Home Helpers® compassionate caregivers can shop for and cook nutritious foods, while providing companionship so there’s no dining alone. I am happy to offer a FREE consultation to assess specific needs and match the perfect, talented caregiver to provide for their needs.

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018 & 2019. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠  727.942.2539

Source:  Oldways Cultural Food Traditions

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