When I began researching the Mediterranean diet in depth, I wanted to understand why it was so effective for southern Europeans, but didn’t seem to translate to America. I realized that the best way to maximize its effectiveness for people like you and me was to apply the principles I’d developed for The Zone—a blueprint for how to balance a meal to get an optimal hormonal response for the next five hours, thus allowing you to control the levels of inflammation in your body.
At every meal, divide your plate into three equal sections. On one-third of the plate put some low-fat protein that is no larger or thicker than the palm of your hand. Next, fill the other two-thirds of the plate with colorful carbohydrates, primarily vegetables and small amounts of fruits to balance the protein. Finally, add a dash of fat that’s rich in monounsaturated fat and low in omega-6 and saturated fats. This could be olive oil, guacamole, or nuts.
Presto: You’re in the Mediterranean Zone. A meal like this gives you all the heart-healthy, fat-shredding, inflammation-fighting benefits of the original Mediterranean diet while side stepping the downfalls of its American bastard cousin.
Here are two very practical hints when it comes to carbohydrates. First, the more white (white sugar, white bread, white pasta, white rice, and white potatoes) you put on your plate, the more inflammation you create. Second, the more nonstarchy vegetables you consume and the fewer whole grains you eat, the better the results. It’s called lowering the glycemic load of the meal.
If you have balanced your plate correctly, then for five hours after eating the meal you will not be hungry since you have stabilized blood sugar levels. That lack of hunger is also an indication that you are reducing inflammation.