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  • Dr. Laura Wyness

How a Mediterranean-style diet can benefit your liver...

A Mediterranean diet is often promoted by nutritionists as a healthy diet to follow. Evidence has shown it to be particularly beneficial for people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

So what actually is a Mediterranean diet? Well, think about the foods and dishes commonly found in Italy, Spain, southern France and Greece. The diet in these areas generally include plenty of plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, beans, pulses, nuts as well as moderate amounts of dairy and fish, and small amounts of meat. The main type of fats in this diet are the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats as opposed to saturated fats.

Here’s 5 top tips for eating more like a Mediterranean:

  1. Oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel are eaten regularly in Mediterranean diets. These fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and recommendations are to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be an oily fish.

  2. Try using a variety of herbs and spices to flavour meals rather than adding salt

  3. Switch to wholegrain bread and cereal and eat more wholegrain rice and pasta products.

  4. Unsalted nuts are great for a healthy snack in between meals.

  5. Choose lower-fat cheese such as cottage cheese, mozzarella or feta rather than cream cheese or cheddar as this will help reduce your saturated fat intake.

Research studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet may live longer and are less likely to put on weight. As well as being beneficial for the liver, this type of diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol. These are all risk factors for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The Mediterranean style of diet is more than just the food, it’s also about the lifestyle. Adopting a Mediterranean-style diet means cooking more from scratch and using more fresh and unprocessed foods. Savour the food and flavours when you eat. Instead of eating in front of the TV, or at your desk at work, sit at a table, preferably with family, friends or colleagues and take your time to enjoy the meal. This should help you become a more mindful eater and recognise your body’s hunger and fullness signals. Getting outdoors for regular exercise and sunshine (if possible) is also a great way to keep active and top up your vitamin D. In the UK, a vitamin D supplement should be considered especially in the winter months as the sun is not at the correct wavelength for our skin to make vitamin D.

See below for some healthy Mediterranean-style meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner:

Breakfast suggestions

  • Greek yogurt with strawberries and oats

  • Omelette with tomatoes, onions and peppers

  • Yogurt with slices fruit and unsalted nuts

Lunch suggestions

  • Wholegrain sandwich with hummus, avocado and salad

  • Tuna nicoise salad

  • Greek salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, olives, peppers, tomatoes and cucumber

  • Mediterranean tomato and pepper soup with wholegrain bread

Dinner suggestions

  • Spaghetti bolognaise with salad

  • Roasted sea bass and vegetables

  • Seafood paella

  • Lamb and aubergine moussaka

  • Chicken and vegetable casserole

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