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The popularity of the Mediterranean Diet began with a rather simple equation: the people of Greece and Southern Italy tended to eat a diet rich in fat, yet had less cardiovascular disease than people in the U.S. How could this be? The answer seems to lie in the Mediterranean's reliance on the monosaturated fat known as olive oil. Olive oil forms the basis of Mediterranean cooking—it is the key ingredient in preparing everything from pasta to steak. Olive oil is also considered an antioxidant, so it can be effective in the fight against cancer.

However, following the Mediterranean Diet can be a challenge. While 40 percent of one's total calories are derived from fat, dieters can only eat small portions of red meat. Even fish and poultry are de-emphasized, as are milk and milk products. However, unlike other diets, the Mediterranean Diet allows you to eat a fair amount of bread and potatoes, and you can eat eggs as often as every other day. You can even drink wine in moderate amounts.

It should be pointed out that the Mediterranean Diet offers little in the way of saturated fat or trans fat. This means that dieters have to avoid certain oils as well as margarine, peanut butter, cakes and cookies. Dieters are also encouraged to cut the total amount of fat they eat each day.

A study conducted in France showed that people who had had at least one heart attack who planned their meals according to a Mediterranean diet were less likely to suffer from subsequent heart attacks than those who followed a typical diet recommended by the American Heart Association. Another study conducted last year indicated that those who used the Mediterranean diet, exercised, and abstained from smoking were less likely to die than those who followed a traditional diet.

However, not all the foods found in a typical Mediterranean Diet are considered healthy choices. For instance, cheese-rich lasagna and ravioli can be roadblocks to weight loss. In addition, tiramisu and canolli can also cause an individual to pack on the pounds.

A number of dieticians recommend taking the best elements of the Mediterranean Diet and incorporating them into your lifestyle in order to achieve good health and weight loss. This means emphasizing vegetables in your diet, along with whole grains and nuts. You might be surprised to learn that the average Mediterranean consumes red meat less than twice a week. If you're following the Mediterranean path, you should also ban the butter and sugary snacks and opt for fruit when selecting a dessert.

But there are also other parts of the Mediterranean lifestyle which should be considered when you are attempting to lose weight. Mediterraneans tend to walk and bike a great deal, which contributes to their calorie-burning. In addition, meals tend to be a leisurely affair. As a result, the body has time for proper digestion.

A typical Mediterranean menu would include cereal and banana for breakfast; minestrone soup and a slice of garlic bread for lunch; and pasta primavera and berries for dinner. One of the great advantages to the Mediterranean Diet is that it is a feast for the senses—the colors are bold, the flavors are enticing, and the aroma is unbeatable.

Cardiologist Michael Ozner has been recommending the Mediterranean Diet to his patients for almost 30 years. In response to the diet's popularity, Ozner published a book called Miami Mediterranean Diet, which offers hundreds of tips for cooking up Mediterranean specialties.

In addition to helping people lose weight, the Mediterranean Diet has been credited with improving longevity for people within the Mediterranean Basin. Therefore, the diet is considered a healthy, life-giving alternative to a number of other diets that are on the market today. But perhaps the diet's biggest selling point is the fact that dieters say it helps to satisfy their cravings—while enabling them to lose weight. Therefore, a number of people see the Mediterranean Diet as the ultimate "un-diet," a weight management plan that doesn't scrimp on taste

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