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Mediterranean Diet

North Mississippi Medical Center offers a Mediterranean-style diet for heart and diabetes patients who are hospitalized. Any patient who wishes to order from the Mediterranean Diet menu is encouraged to do so. By introducing these foods to hospital patients, NMMC hopes to encourage a more healthful lifestyle at home.

A Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, is particularly beneficial to protect your health and that of your family because vegetables are low in calories, carbohydrates and fat, while they are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. For people with diabetes, vegetables are the ideal food. Regular consumption of vegetables helps you prevent chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

Not all vegetables contribute the same kind of nutrients. It is important to be aware of how each variety benefits you so that you include all or most of them in your menus. If you happen to have diabetes, or if there is a genetic tendency in your family for diabetes, it is important to know that there are two classifications for vegetables:

1. Vegetables that do not have starches.

This group contributes very few calories and carbohydrates to our diet; about 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates per portion. It includes green leafy vegetables, peppers, broccoli and green beans. These vegetables are the best kind for people with diabetes.

2. Vegetables that do have starches.

These vegetables are also good for your health but they contribute about 80 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates per portion. Among these vegetables are pumpkin, corn, green peas and potatoes. As you can see, these vegetables contribute more carbohydrates to the meal, and diabetics need to keep this in mind when it comes to counting carbohydrates.

In addition to not eating enough vegetables, sometimes we do not choose the ones that benefit us most. Nutrition experts recommend 750 grams a week of dark green leafy vegetables and 500 grams of the orange/yellow kind. These two groups, along with the red and purple ones, offer nutrients that we often lack such as fiber, vitamin A and C, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Colors can give you an idea of what nutrients vegetables have:

  • Dark green: lettuce, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage. They provide fiber, vitamins A and C, magnesium, folic acid and potassium.
  • Orange and yellow: carrots, zucchini, peppers, corn, potatoes and pumpkins. They provide fiber, vitamin A and potassium.
  • Red and purple: tomatoes, red peppers, onions, beets, eggplants, red cabbage and radishes. They provide antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals.

When you eat raw vegetables, you are ingesting all their minerals and vitamins. That’s why when we cook vegetables, it is important to do it the right way so that a minimum of their nutrients is lost. When cooking vegetables, steamed is best. Make a habit of washing vegetables before eating them.

When you prepare a salad, do not add dressings made with cheese or butter to your vegetables; they only add up calories. Dress your vegetables and salads with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. Skip vegetables rolled in butter and breadcrumbs because their fat content increases when fried.