Imagine you had a diet that helped prevent heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. By some accounts, the Mediterranean diet is just that.
Mediterranean diet is a nutrition plan based on the healthy diet patterns of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It emphasizes eating plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Seafood is consumed in small amounts or not at all. Olive oil is used generously for cooking and dressing foods. The diet is low in saturated fats, sugar and red meat. Moderate amounts of alcohol are consumed with meals.
The eating style is based on the eating habits of people who live along the Mediterranean Sea. It’s characterized by three main elements:
- Lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. We should eat these foods instead of snacks made with refined grains.
- A reliance on healthy fats, including olive oil, avocado and nuts. These foods are known as mono- or polyunsaturated fats. They help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- A moderate amount of fish, poultry, dairy products and red wine. This kind of lifestyle may even protect you from depression.
There are two additional dietary factors that are linked with better health among people who eat this way: not smoking and exercising regularly.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
The diet has long been enjoyed by the people of Greece, Italy, Spain, and other Mediterranean countries. Now it is being embraced by Americans who are wanting to include more fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds in their eating plan.
It is often said that if one looks at the various populations of the world, the people who enjoy the longest, healthiest lives are those who live on Mediterranean diets. Now researchers are beginning to understand why this diet appears to bestow longevity.
Here are 5 benefits of the Mediterranean diet:
- Preventing heart disease & strokes
A Mediterranean diet usually limits the intake of refined bread, processed foods and red meat. It encourages drinking red wine instead of hard liquor, all these factors can help prevent heart disease and stroke.
- Keeps a person agile
If you are an older adult, you might be aware that the nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce your risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty by about 65%.
- Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s
Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All these ultimately reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The high levels of antioxidants in the Mediterranean diet can help prevent the cells from undergoing oxidative stress, ultimately reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease by about 50%.
- Protects against type 2 diabetes
A Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber which digests slowly, prevents huge swings in blood sugar and can help a person in maintaining a healthy weight.
If you start feeling hungry between meals, there are plenty of healthy snack options you can enjoy on the Mediterranean diet. Some of the snacks include baby carrots with hummus, mixed berries, grapes, greek yoghurt, a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, cottage cheese with fresh fruit, chia pudding, sliced bell peppers with guacamole, apple slices with almond butter, etc.
Foods to Avoid While Following the Mediterranean Diet
When it comes to health, many people consider the Mediterranean diet as a gold standard. It is generally made up of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, eggs, dairy products and olive oil.
Let’s see which foods to avoid while following the Mediterranean diet.
- Saturated Fats: Saturated fats are hard at room temperature and are present in animal products like fatty red meat, butter, whole milk, cream, lard etc. These are considered to be harmful to your heart health. Saturated fats also raise the blood LDL or bad cholesterol.
- Processed Meats: Processed meats can lead to cardiovascular diseases and colon cancer. Processed meat has been linked to a higher risk for a number of cancers including colon, stomach, oesophagus and lung cancer.
- Sugar & Refined Grains: Added sugar is found in many foods but is especially high in soda, candies, table sugar, syrup, ice cream and baked goods. Refined grains include white bread, tortillas, chips, pasta and crackers.
The Mediterranean diet is a very healthy diet that has been proven to have a positive effect on overall health and a lower risk of heart disease. It is a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and wine.
The diet has been linked with lower rates of heart disease and some cancers. But some foods aren’t allowed on the Mediterranean diet, including potatoes, tomatoes and white bread, since people who live in Mediterranean countries don’t eat them.