Mediterranean diet and health benefits

Mediterranean diet and health benefits

The Mediterranean diet has long been one of the healthiest diets according to research.

The history and tradition of the Mediterranean is based on the diets of people from the Mediterranean region around Southern Italy, Crete, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Spain.

It has become popular because individuals show low rate of heart disease, chronic disease, and obesity.

What is Mediterranean diet?

Is characterized by abundant plant foods included:

  • fruit and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • nuts and seeds
  • healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil
  • dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt)
  • fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts
  • 1 – 4 eggs consumed weekly
  • red meat consumed in low amounts
  • wine consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals    

The diet is low in saturated fat (less than or equal to 7-8% of energy) with total fat ranging from less than 25% to greater than 35% of energy throughout the region.

Several studies have confirmed the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet such as:

  • prevention and reversal of metabolic syndrome
  • improved cardiovascular health and reduce risk for stroke
  • reduced risk for rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer
  • improved overall health and longevity

What are the health benefits associated with a Mediterranean diet?

Preventing heart disease and strokes

Numerous studies suggest that Mediterranean diet consists of high dietary fibre and flavonoids, which decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke because of their anti-inflammatory properties.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, known as PREDIMED study, has strong evidence that the use of the traditional Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating pattern for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, increasing lifespan and healthy aging.

May prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease

A review published in the Journal of Frontiers in Nutrition, looking at the effect of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive function, concluded that Mediterranean diet is associated with improving cognition, slowing cognitive decline or reducing the conversion to Alzheimer’s disease.

May help with weight loss and maintenance

According to the US News & World report, Mediterranean diet was identified the best diet climbing in the first place for the year 2019-2020, evaluated by 41 different diets. 

According to the Spanish PREDIMED trial data, eating a calorie unrestricted Mediterranean diet high in unsaturated vegetable fat led to slightly more weight loss and added less to participants’ waist circumferences than a low-fat diet.

Manage Diabetes type II

Using participants from the PREDIMED study, researchers concluded that those participants who followed the Mediterranean diet, whether supplementing with olive oil or nuts, had a 52% lower risk for type II diabetes during a 4-year- follow up.

Another meta-analysis of 20 randomized clinical trials published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that the Mediterranean diet:

  • can improve blood sugar control more than low carbohydrate
  • low-glycemic index and high-protein diets in those managing type II diabetes

These findings suggest that a Mediterranean diet may be an effective way to help manage diabetes type II related health complications.

What makes the Mediterranean diet different from other diets?

It consists a lot of anti-inflammatory foods and built upon plant-based food and healthy fats such as:

Fresh fruit and vegetables – Leafy greens like spinach, kale, eggplant, cauliflower, artichokes, tomatoes and fennel.

Healthy fats – Avocado, extra virgin olive oil

Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (tahini), linseeds, chia and poppy seeds.

Legumes and beans – Lentils, chickpeas (hummus), beans, broad beans, lentils, fava beans

Herbs and spices – Oregano, sage, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, dill, fennel, mint, siderites, chamomile, thyme, parsley, basil

Whole grains – wheat (bulgur), rye, oats, barley, spelt, rice, corn

Fish products – Red mullet, kourkouna, marida, trout, mackerel and herring at least twice a week

Dairy products – High quality pasture raised poultry, eggs, cheese, halloumi, goat milk and probiotic rich yogurt, kefir or airani consumed in moderation

Meat products – Red meat consumed on special occasions or about once weekly. If you eat meat, make sure it’s lean and keep portions small.

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