By Cassidy Hobbs Hall
Area Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Johnston County Cooperative Extension
If you’re new to Johnston County, or if you have lived here for quite some time, and have never heard of N.C. Cooperative Extension, let me fill you in before I tell you about the #1 diet of 2019. N.C. Cooperative Extension is a cooperation between each county in North Carolina and two universities- N.C. State University and North Carolina A. & T. State University. Essentially, Johnston County Cooperative Extension has Agents who serve Johnston County and educate those here in the county with the latest, research-based information from the universities. There are specialists in various departments at the universities that we can reach out to for technical support or more information on topics when our clients have questions. We serve in the areas of 4-H Youth Development, Agriculture, and Food and Nutrition. We also have a group known as Master Gardeners who can assist with homeowner gardening and landscaping questions. You could call Cooperative Extension “the best kept secret.”
Why am I telling you this? One of the areas we serve in is nutrition education. Unfortunately, rather than seeking research-based information for nutrition and dieting, consumers tend to gravitate towards social media and fill their bodies with unhealthy foods because they are misled about certain nutrients or they commit to a trend that will leave them unsuccessful in the end so. Because Extension is 100% research-based information and education for the public, we do not endorse diet trends.
Let me first be clear, the #1 diet of 2019 is not a trend. This diet is a lifestyle, and the best part is that it is easy to carry out. You’ve likely heard about this diet recently. USA Today, CNN, WRAL, and numerous other news sources have posted articles and segments stating that the “Mediterranean Diet” is the #1 diet of 2019. Experts including health professionals and nutritionists ranked the Mediterranean Diet as the #1 diet of 2019 because it is the healthiest and easiest to follow, making it a lifestyle diet rather than a fad. The Mediterranean Diet is simple. You don’t have to restrict yourself from eating carbs, you don’t fill your arteries with fat, you don’t have to count points, and best of all, you don’t leave yourself feeling hungry throughout the day. Going “Med” means eating lots of fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, whole grain bread and whole wheat pasta. It also includes eating nuts and seeds, using healthy oils such as olive or canola oil, and choosing more white meat poultry and fish. It really is that simple! How do we know this diet is so healthy?
Well it includes lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains- all of which are great sources of fiber. Fiber is key to a heart-healthy diet. Fiber also helps aid in digestion, prevent diverticulitis, better manage blood pressure, and better manage blood sugar. Additionally, this diet encourages leaner cuts of meat, choosing white meat poultry, and fish. These protein sources are lower in saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat consumption and swapping it with unsaturated fats from fish, nuts, avocados, and liquid oils to improve cholesterol levels. Long-term studies indicate that eating the Med way also lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline as well as macular eye degeneration. Finally, the diet encourages you to enjoy less sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. Added sugar is associated with higher body fat percentages, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
The Mediterranean Diet is truly simple, delicious, and healthy! If you would like more information or recipes, visit www.medinsteadofmeds.com. N.C. Cooperative Extension, Johnston County Center will also be hosting a 6-week cooking and nutrition series on the Mediterranean Diet beginning in February. If you would like more information, call 919-989-5380 or visit https://johnston.ces.ncsu.edu/family-and-consumer-sciences-2/available-programs/med-instead-of-meds/.