Perspectives: The Mediterranean Diet

by Christina Bruni Patient Expert

The Mediterranean Diet has long been touted (at least since the 1990s when I read the first Mediterranean Diet book by Marissa Cloutier) as the best kind of "diet" to follow.

HealthCentral's Mediterranean Diet Explainer and Infographic

Yet Europeans are catching up to us in their fast food habits.
A new study tested the health of those who engage in the Mediterranean diet and those who do not.
The results are conclusive: eating from this food plan is linked to better physical and mental health, according to the study from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Navarra in Spain.

("Mediterranean Diets Are Good For Overall Health," retrieved on June 12, 2012 from

The study tracked the influence of Mediterranean food on the quality of life of more than 11,000 university students during a four-year period.
At the end, the students who ate from the Mediterranean Diet scored higher results in terms of physical and mental well-being on the quality of life questionnaire they filled out.

Lead study author Patricia Henriquez Sanchez considers the Mediterranean Diet to be a healthy food model that is linked to a better quality of life.

Specifically, the Mediterranean Diet is a type of food pyramid.

The bottom of the pyramid and the bulk of the food eaten is comprised of cereals, fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes and nuts, and a dairy component which should be consumed at all meals. Cheese and yogurt and olive oil are also here. Cereals are grains and the most healthful types of grains are whole grains.

These above foods are to be eaten daily and daily physical activity is also at the bottom of the pyramid.

You're also supposed to drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water daily.
A moderate consumption of wine is allowed.

Olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean Diet.
Proteins are to be obtained from fish, poultry and eggs.
These three sources are to be eaten weekly.

Meat is to be eaten only monthly.

Sweets, pastries, sugary foods and beverages are near the top of the pyramid and are to be consumed only occasionally and in small servings.

I've been a ravenous fan of the Mediterranean Diet for the past three years.
I go farther: I eat mostly fish and seafood, and 90 percent organic fruits and vegetables.
Admittedly, I don't eat a lot of whole grains yet I do buy farro salad and have that for lunch twice a week and I have lentil soup once a week.

The American name for farro is spelt though you will often find it labeled farro here.
Bulgar is quick to cook and a serving of this grain can supply you with nearly all the required daily allotment of whole grains.
Wild rice is also a whole grain.

Pamela Peeke, M.D., who wrote Body For Life For Women, suggests in her fitness guide that women consume only two servings of grains a day and as early in the day as possible.

My psychiatrist told me the reason I'm skinny is because of my intense fitness routine and my ongoing eating habits.
The atypical I'm on did not cause weight gain even though the literature claims it can cause weight gain.
All atypicals in this class of drug must carry the warning about possible weight gain even when a specific drug is less likely to cause monster weight gain.

I don't snack on unhealthful food as a rule.
I might have a cup of chocolate mousse once every two months, or a bar of 70 percent cacao dark chocolate every two weeks.
This kind of chocolate in a recent study was linked to better health.
I quit drinking sugary Snapple iced teas and now drink Honest Tea white peach iced tea.

Atypicals cause weight gain because they rev up your appetite and keep you constantly hungry.
Though this is true, adherence to the Mediterranean Diet 80 percent of the time and engaging in some kind of consistent strength training and cardiovascular exercise might go a long way in helping to maintain your mental and physical health.

I lost 12 lbs from June 2011 through this June because of my intense strength training routines at the gym.
In one year, I got in fighting form.
A gym membership might not be doable for you yet you can check out of the library fitness DVDs and do simple strength training exercises at home while you watch TV or listen to the radio.

Googling: "strength training" "at home" without weights : will bring up suggestions.
Try PickYourBrain and LiveStrong.

In New York City, there are public fitness centers that charge a nominal fee for residents so you might want to investigate if your city or town also has such a community center.
The Cromwell Center on Staten Island used to charge only $10 for a yearly membership.

A YMCA membership is another option with the advantage of a swimming pool.

The reason strength training is the key to physical health is that when you do this kind of exercise you will be able to occasionally have a donut or potato chips without great harm to your waistline.
I train three times a week at the gym on most weeks and every so often I eat food that is not healthful.

For women, I recommend the Pamela Peeke, M.D. book Body For Life For Women and the number-one fitness book by Martina Navratilova (one of the all-time great athletes): Shape Your Self.
The original Bill Phillips book Body For Life is good for men.
I also recommend his book Transformation to help women and men make positive lifestyle changes.

It is possible to manage your weight or to lose weight even though you take an atypical.
I hope the suggestions I've given here can help you in this regard.

The last technique I can give you is to see if your doctor will prescribe for you 2,000 mg of Metfornin, the diabetes drug that is also used to promote weight loss at this dose for people with schizophrenia.
Weigh the pros and cons of doing this carefully to see if this might be for you.

To regulate your blood sugar and keep it at an acceptable level or to help control the level if you have diabetes already: an option is to take two cinnamon tablets at once with food once a day.
A bottle of cinnamon extract tablets can be bought in the Vitamin Shoppe or other places where vitamins and supplements are sold.

I'd love to hear from community members on this topic.

Christina Bruni
Meet Our Writer
Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.